Sal Nistico: Empty Room

This 1988 Italian jam session features the 1960s Woody Herman tenor player whom the Road Father was always glad to have back with his band


I remember that back in the 60s I eagerly awaited the next Woody Herman album just to hear some more from one of the band’s stellar tenor-men – Sal Nistico.

He was with Herman from 1962 to 1965 but he often returned, well into the 1980s. As he told William D. Clancy, “It was very hard to find (other) work.” Woody was always glad to have him back because “He was one of the heaviest… and greatest players I ever worked with.” Herman’s albums were replete with Nistico solos during those years and Sister Sadie, Mo-Lasses, That’s Where It Is, Watermelon Man, Hallelujah Time and Jazz Hoot are just a small selection.

Empty Room is very much a blowing session with three common-denominator standards, a Charlie Parker blues and two originals (one Joe by Joe Henderson and one by the leader). Come Rain Or Come Shine is a mid-tempo swinger with Sal at his most relaxed, closing with a perfectly executed rallentando.

He plots a melodic course through the serpentine harmonies of Lush Life. Inner Urge opens with a passage of free playing leading to an extended examination of Joe Henderson’s tricky construction at 80 bpm. He is almost rhapsodic on a moving I Should Care. The Hymn opens with seven choruses from the impressive Rita Marcotulli leading to Nistico really digging-in to reveal his Gene Ammons and Illinois Jacquet influences.

Come Rain Or Come Shine; Lush Life; Inner Urge; Empty Room; I Should Care; The Hymn (42.20)
Nistico (ts); Rita Marcotulli (p); Marco Fratini (b); Roberto Gatto (d). Rome, Italy, 27 February 1988.
Red Records RR 123222-2