Saxophonist Michael Palermo is a musician who paid some dues long before he decided to become a solo recording artist. He has earned degrees in music education and followed a path that led to stints with Joe Lovano, Jack DeJohnette, David Sanborn, Phil Woods, Ray Brown and a host of other notable individuals. Along the way, his career has also spanned the globe with performances in Europe as a guest artist and as an educator with the International Bands of America.
In 1997, Palermo released his first recording entitled Miles Above All, an album that received considerable attention on a number of college radio stations as well as Cleveland Jazz Networks. Since that time, he has continued performing and teaching while paving the way for his newest release entitled Don’t Look Back, a CD that revisits a number of classic tunes and also adding a few surprises to the mix for the sake of originality.
Don’t Look Back is Michael Palermo’s second release. This time out, Michael follows a path he began laying with the release of Miles Above All and as a musician and educator. As a contemporary jazz practitioner, Palermo has recorded eight defining tracks that push the envelope of inhibited imagery and collaboration.
As the CD unfolds with a track entitled "Got It Bad," Michael exudes an undaunted familiarity with his horn. Backed by a strategically placed pianist in the name of Joe Hunter, there is a strong correlation between Palermo and the background melody. Unfortunately that and one other track entitled "Dreaming" may well be the album’s relative high points. Although the anticipated outcome of Don’t Look Back was expected to be a highly evolved continuation of his first album, there appears to be something lacking in its production. The inclusion of tunes such as "To Sir With Love" and "How Deep is Your Love" added perceived excitement to the album, I was left wondering and waiting for the punch line. However, there were moments where high points existed. Unexpectedly what made this CD most enjoyable was the intricate melodies that were provided by the pianist. His accompaniment complimented Palermo quite well.
While listening to Don’t Look Back, I was impressed by Palermo’s wizardry and familiarity with his horn. However, substandard production left much to be desired beyond that observation. Although I have not had the pleasure of hearing Miles Above All, I do believe that Michael Palermo exhibits promise and a degree of creativity. On this particular release, where Palermo is supposed to be the focal point, the pianist makes the recording worth the effort. As I reflect upon Don’t Look Back, I do believe Michael is set to take off as an artist. However, future releases should exhibit a higher level of creativity and production, which in my mind should be based upon Michael’s impressive intellect and skill level as an educator and professional musician.