JJ 11/83: Ed Palermo – Ed Palermo

Forty years ago Simon Adams reckoned that Ed Palermo, acclaimed by Gil Evans for innovation, was in fact largely ploughing an old furrow. First published in Jazz Journal November 1983


Garlanded with glowing tributes from Gil Evans on the sleeve and an extravagant gush from Steve Voce in July’s JJ, this debut album includes such alumni as Randy Brecker, Dave Sanborn and two members of the Gerry Mulligan band. But faced with such critical unanimity, and an all-star cast it is as much as I can do to say please, I beg to differ.

Big bands are often better live than on record, and Palermo and his cast of thousands are no doubt red- hot in action, but on record their music is somewhat relentless. Slick, professional to their finger tips, even flash at times, the Palermo band swings like hell, is adept at clever and at times surprising time and mood changes, runs a good line in ensemble work, and is imaginative in backing soloists (Sanborn’s solo on An Escape Nonetheless is backed with bass, bass drum and cymbal).

But whereas Evans praised the use of traditional big band instrumentation for innovatory arrangements, I found the arrangements almost passé, reminiscent of those heavily orchestrated scores so beloved of West Coast TV thrillers. True, Palermo does spring the odd surprise, taking the music in novel directions, and occasionally reminds one of Carla Bley in his quirky use of percussion backings. But if this is the direction big band music is going in, someone ought to point out that it’s been there already, and moved on.

Papier Maché (a); Complete Control; Before Max (b) (17.08) – Dusty (Another Cowboy Song); Different People Differently; An Escape Nonetheless (c) (20.15)
Bob Quaranta (p); Ed Sterbenz (b); Kim Plainfield (d/pc); Laurie Frink, David Rogers, Peter Hyde, Neal Rosengarden (t); Chuck Wilson (as/cl); Steve Sacks (as/f); Jim Clouse (ts/sps/cl/pic); Ron Grunhut (ts/f); Al Hunt (bs/bcl/o); Dave Glenn, Larry Farrell (tb); George Moran (btb); (a) Edgar Winter solos (as/org/v); (b) Randy Brecker (t); (c) David Sanborn (as). Recorded New York, 1982.
(Vile Heifer, VHF 001)