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Stick With Me by Peppe Merolla

Drummer Peppe Merolla recruits an all-star New York cast for Stick With Me, his debut as a leader. The Italian-born Merolla, who began his career as a singer and classical trumpeter, approaches the drums with a thorough understanding of the instruments rich lineage in jazz history.

The bulk of the disc's compositions were written by saxophonist John Farnsworth and emulate the classic hard bop sound of groups led by Horace Silver and Art Blakey in the 1950s and 60s. This approach to tune selection achieves success with the first-rate players involved who are well schooled in the intricacies of the genre. Along with Farnsworth, Merolla brings along trumpeter Jim Rotundi, trombonist Steve Turre (who also plays conch shells on the opening track), pianist Mike LeDonne and bassist Lee Smith.

Far from a drummer's showcase, Merolla utilizes the strength of his soloists to highlight his convincing and tireless approach to hard-driving swing. The drummer sizzles with intensity through the up-tempo "Ferris Wheel" and creates a warm groove on the light-hearted "Junior." Merolla incorporates an insatiable drive on Latin grooves, such as the Afro-Cuban 6/8 feel of his own composition "Naples" and the bossa nova "Marabella."

Rotundi contributes an engaging ballad arrangement of Willie Nelson's "Crazy," a disc highlight with lyrical soloing from Farsworth and Turre. Here, Merolla and bassist Smith lock-in to a warm, flowing momentum. The Blakey influence is unmistakable on "Mozzin'," a modal-flavored tune that finds Merolla at the top of his game.

Stick With Me is an exemplary representation of a fresh take on past innovations. Merolla and company perform convincingly and honestly.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Peppe Merolla
  • CD Title: Stick With Me
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Self Produced
  • Musicians: Peppe Merolla (drums, percussion), Steve Turre (trombone, shells), Jim Rotondi (trumpet, flugelhorn), John Farnsworth (tenor saxophone), Mike LeDonne (piano), Lee Smith (bass)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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