The Giants return to their spiritual home for a great night out.
The Ray Gelato Giants are keeping themselves firmly in the public eye and dancer's ear with the release of their latest CD, Live In Italy. This ten-track collection was recorded during their tour in the Summer of 1999 and features many of the band's stage favourites.
In the sleeve notes, Ray himself writes about his preference for live performances, and cites Louis Prima's "The Wildest Show At Tahoe" as a big influence on him. "I like the fat that you can hear glasses clinking and fruit machines in the background!" And that is pretty much what you get here - except without the fruit machines. Lots of crowd noises, some identified sounds and lots of upbeat swing music.
From the enthusiastic introduction by Alex Garnett, the band lead into Oh Marie. Whether or not it's the setting, Ray sounds more Italian than ever, and the Giants match him note for note. His time as an Echoes of Ellington sideman shows through in his selection of Solitude, taken at a pleasant leisurely pace, with another former EoE-person Enrico Tomasso's trumpet prominent throughout.
It's back to Prima country for a really swinging version of Josephine Please No Lean On The Bell. The rhythm section of drummer Steve Rushton, pianist Richard Busiakiewicz and Clark Kent on string bass are superb on this number. Then the band head out for the Woody Herman instrumental Apple Honey, with a nifty little intro by the aforementioned rhythm section. Andy Baker's trumpet joins Tomasso and the saxophones of Alex Garnett and Gelato for something that approaches a Dizzy Gillespian bebop workout.
The Italian setting really comes through on Tu Vuo 'Fa L'Americano. You can almost smell the pasta being served at the tables. Then it's vocal harmony time on Hoagy Carmichael's Lazy River, with Ray accompanied by the unflatteringly-named The Butt-Tones (Alex, Enrico and Andy). A suitably laid-back trumpet solo from Tomasso precedes a triple-paced closing call-and-response between Ray and the BTs.
"Dedicated to all the signorinas", Carina is sung in Italian by Gelato, with some backing shouts on the title by the band. Once again, were firmly on Prima's patch. A sprightly tempo with much sax and trumpet interplay on the solos makes for an aural delight. The mood continues with the lounge classic Everybody Loves Somebody, with more vocal contributions from Enrico, Alex and Andy.
Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody is probably the best known of the tracks here, having been brought back to popular attention in recent years by David Lee Roth. It all fits together so smoothly here that you can almost picture the band sat around with their feet up. No doubt a lot of effort goes into achieving that effect.
And all too soon it's over. Buona Sera is the party closer, complete with farewell in the local tongue. A false ending precedes an upbeat version of the song, and then it's an LA-style farewell from Gelato and a James Brown-sideman type crowd-baiting holler from Alex Garnett.
Only two of these tracks (Josephine and L'Americano) appeared on their previous studio CD, and can you really have too many versions of Just A Gigolo? The arrangements by the band, Peter Tomasso and Al Nicholls are right on the money, and give the songs a bright and authentic feel.
The most obvious complaint is that there's simply not enough music on the CD! At around 45 minutes, it's a shame more tracks weren't considered for inclusion. But what you find here is all quality, and a faithful recreation of a night out with the band. As Ray himself remarks: "There are no enhancements, gimmicks or tricks and no boy band dance routines". Right on, Ray, but next time you step off the stage, maybe someone can show you some nifty little jazz steps if you're that way inclined!
Produced by Double Scoop Records (DSCD002)
Available from record stores and via the band's web site at www.raygelato.com
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