Sal Nistico


In the early sixties the line-up of The Herd, Woody Herman’s big band that had spawned such groundbreaking editions as the First Herd with Bill Harris, Pete Candoli and Flip Philips and The Second Herd with the famous Four Brothers section of Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward, Serge Chaloff and Stan Getz, was one of the most exciting to date. It included trumpeter Bill Chase, trombonist Phil Wilson and drummer Jake Hanna. As well as a thickset fellow from Italian ancestry who regularly jumped off the blocks to deliver a hot explosive story. That was Sal Nistico.

See some of Nistico’s lively playing on The Herd’s rendition of Horace Silver’s Sister Sadie on YouTube here.

Nistico was an outstanding straightforward tenor saxophonist who was born in Syracuse, New York on April 2, 1941. He played in the Jazz Brothers band of Chuck and Gap Mangione from 1959 to 1961 and came into prominence in the big band of Woody Herman. He was part of The Herd from 1962 to 1965 and would have regular stints with the bandleader throughout his career. Nistico also played and recorded with Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Curtis Fuller, Dusko Goykovich, Stan Tracey and Chet Baker, spending a big part of his career in Europe.

Fiery in the big band context, Nistico had no shortage of fire as a leader of small group dates, yet leaned towards a more balanced, bop-oriented approach, most likely the environment he enjoyed most. With his strong tone, fluency and slightly-behind-the-beat timing, Nistico fronted straight ahead groups on records with Nat Adderley, Barry Harris, Benny Bailey, Roy Haynes, Frank Strazzeri and Hod ‘O Brien.

From left to right: Heavyweights, Jazzland 1962; Neo/Nistico, Beehive 1978; Hod ‘O Brien & Sal Nistico, Live In The Netherlands, Porgy & Bess, Terneuzen 1986, HodStef Music 2017

Nistico sheds a light on his approach and feelings about modern jazz in a conversation with English saxophonist Tubby Hayes that was published in Cresendo Magazine’s Anglo-American Exchange in 1966 by Les Tompkins. See here.

Tubby Hayes: “there seem to be a lot of younger musicians here (in New York, FM) who are trying to be different for the sake of being different, without actually knowing the roots.”

Sal Nistico: “It’s like — I talked to Coltrane. He used to dig Arnette Cobb, Illinois Jacquet. Those guys have a firm foundation for what they’re doing. A lot of cats put down bebop, and they say it’s old and it’s dated, but that music’s not easy — it’s a challenge to play.”

Nistico was married to singer Rachel Gould. One of five children, their daughter Miriam – theatre maker and musician – shares memories of her background and artistic goals here.

She says: “Sal (…) looked like a gladiator, with a stocky Southern Italian physique, thick curly black hair and a crumpled forehead. People judge books by their covers and most people assumed that Sal was a man with a thick skin, a tough guy. In fact, as is so often the case, he was incredibly sensitive. He had a child’s hatred of cruelty and injustice (…) and he struggled with the machismo and bravado of men on tour.”

Sal Nistico passed away on March 3, 1991 in Bern, Switzerland.

New West Quartet - East & West

New West Quartet East & West (Fresh Sound New Talent)


Quirky rhythm is the business of the New West Quartet.

New West Quartet - East & West


John Gunther (tenor saxophone), Ricardo Pinheiro (guitar), Mike del Ferro (piano on 1, 3, 5, 7 & 8), Massimo Cavalli (bass), Bruno Pedroso (drums)


on June 8, 2017 at Estúdio Vale de Lobos in Lisbon, Portugal


as FSNT 576 in 2019

Track listing

The New West
Pó Dos Dias
Boulder Blues
Don’t Forget Ornette
Moment’s Notice
Que Falta
Poka Blues

The New West Quartet consists of tenor saxophonist John Gunther, guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro, bassist Massimo Cavalli and drummer Bruno Pedroso, featuring pianist Mike del Ferro on a number of tracks. Pinheiro and Pedroso are from Portugal, Cavalli from Italy. They met the American saxophonist and woodwind player Gunther in 2003 in Denmark and Dutchman Del Ferro in South Africa in 2014 through their work for the International Association of Schools Of Jazz. East & West is their debut album.

An unconventional but unmistakable groove runs level with impassioned musical conversations and a rapacious concern with melodic rhythm. Gunther’s The New West, for instance, is reminiscent of, just to give you an idea, John Scofield’s A Go Go, without the Hammond organ. Except Pinheiro and Gunther break out of the grease, in fact travel out there in space, two alien creatures absorbed by a lively evaluation of that peculiar animal, the earthling.

Four fellows (indeed five, counting Del Ferro) speak both individually and as a unit. The group’s edgy interpretations of the blues – Cavalli’s Boulder Blues and Pinheiro’s Poka Blues – leave plenty of room for the lyrical Cavalli, who evidently, and to our great pleasure, highly esteems the value of the upright bass not only as a time-keeper but also as an independent voice. Simultaneous improvisation pops up here and there and is at the core of Cavalli’s Don’t Forget Ornette, obviously a reference to the late Mr. Coleman. The bassist’s humorous quote of Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water is at the tail end of the challenging, captivating tune of sparse harmonic movement and shifting tempo. Pinheiro’s Pó Dos Dias and Gunther’s Que Falta are sensuous slow and medium-slow songs, dripping with hot Mediterranean sunlight and humid nights, the web of twisty alleys barely noticeable through the fog… Enjoyable side dishes to the grand improvisational boeuf of East & West.

The melody of John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice is a funky kind of polka, the remaining changes are taken in gritty 4/4. Gunther – on tenor saxophone – is an archeologist who patiently looks for ancient clues in a cave. He develops a story with measured grace, injecting a husky bended note here, a vivid U-turn there. Gunther’s got a lithe tone and a fluidity reminiscent of Clifford Jordan. Del Ferro expresses similar elasticity. Thelonious Monk’s Bye-Ya has been more of less cha cha cha-fied. Pinheiro works around the beat with much aplomb. He has found a fascinating balance between angular phrasing, sinuous, exotic lines and crunchy, repetitive licks.

Weirdly, The New West Quartet wouldn’t be out of place in a little bar in Havana, Cuba or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Without a doubt, the rowdy and thoroughly entertained crowd would intuitively grasp the group’s excellent and refreshing re-evaluation of mainstream jazz.

New West Quartet

Find East & West on Fresh Sound Records here.


Radio Ga Ga. For the generation of post-war jazz fans, radio was the predominant means of discovering jazz artists, besides the odd purchase of a record or dive into the collection of a parent or relative.

Few radio shows were as enchanting as The Voice Of America’s Jazz Hour, hosted by Willis Conover. It wasn’t strictly on air in the United States. The waves went as far as Western Europe, where music lovers added the show to their favorite diet, that also included shows of the legendary Radio Luxembourg station.

No one who recounts the enjoyment of the show leaves out the recollection of Conover’s stately delivery. His warm baritone voice would, for instance, introduce Freddie Freeloader from Kind Of Blue . The speed of the voice slow as a turtle walk: “On trumpet, Miles Davis, on tenor saxophone, John Coltrane, on alto saxophone, Cannonball Adderley, on piano… Winetone Kelly.

(From left to right: Wynton Kelly; Willis Conover; The Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Plus)

You can see the smile on Kelly’s face. Ergo the title of one of Kelly’s tunes: Winetone. (here) It’s a medium-tempo blues tune that appeared on The Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s Plus album from 1961. That’s plus Wynton Kelly. Well, Winetone.

The White Blinds Sing A Simple Song (F-Spot 2019)


Drop the needle on the brand-new 45rpm platter by The White Blinds, a cover of Sly Stone’s Sing A Simple Song.

The White Blinds - Sing A Simple Song


Carey Frank (organ), Matt Hornbeck (guitar), Michael Duffy (drums)


in 2018 at Rich Uncle Records, Los Angeles


as FSPT 1011 in 2019

Track listing

Side A:
Sing A Simple Song
Side B:
Klapp Back

We love those 7inch babies, a format tailor-made for a powerhouse trio like The White Blinds, which while thoroughly up-to-date, harks back to the halcyon soul jazz days, when every joint had a jukebox and Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and a slew of hip and funky organists were the saints that soothed the souls of folks in the hood. The release of Sing A Simple Song/Klapp Back is part of the Homage Series of Los Angeles-based F-Spot Records.

The White Blinds are drummer Michael Duffy, organist Carey Frank and guitarist Matt Hornbeck. The Hammond groove outfit, one of the most prolific organ combos on the West Coast, is a greasy, well-oiled rhythm machine whose version of the flower power funk classic Sing A Simple Song does justice to both Sly & The Family Stone and Charles Earland, the organist known as The Mighty Burner, who presented his killer version on the 1970 Prestige album Black Drops.

The trio’s heavy groove is sustained by precise and powerful drum patterns and breaks, tantalizing New Orleans Funk guitar licks and full-bodied chords and hypnotizing organ lines, which add a drop of acid in a refreshing glass of lemonade.

Side B’s Klapp Back is penned by The White Blinds and marked by a similar tight pocket, as well as a streetwise conversation between Frank and Hornbeck that works well as the introduction to Frank’s solo, which is all crunchy and screaming Hammond B3. Both tunes would work well as the introduction to The White Blinds.

The White Blinds

Find Sing A Simple Song/Klapp Back on F-Spot Records here.

Nick Hempton - Night Owl

Nick Hempton Night Owl (Triple-Distilled 2019)


Gritty, entertaining and thoroughly modern. Saxophonist Nick Hempton’s Night Owl keeps the flame of organ combo jazz burning brightly.

Nick Hempton - Night Owl


Nick Hempton (tenor & alto saxophone), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Kyle Koehler (organ), Fukushi Tainaka (drums)


at G.B’s Juke Joint Night Club, New York City


on Triple-Distilled in 2019

Track listing

Night Owl
I Remember Milady
After You’ve Gone
I’m A Fool To Want You
10th Street Turnaround
Corner Bistro
It Shouldn’t Happen In Dreams
Listen Hard, Speak Easy
Macao Mood

Nick Hempton has been a fixture on the New York scene since 2004. Besides notable cooperations with Roy Hargrove, Joe Magnarelli and Peter Bernstein, the Australia-born tenor and alto saxophonist has released five albums as a leader, four of which were recorded with the Nick Hempton Band, a group that brought him to venues and festivals around the globe. Cherishing a particular passion for classic 60’s organ jazz, Hempton has finally come around to produce a full-blown session of the archetypical format of sax, Hammond organ, guitar and drums. Assisted by guitar maestro Peter Bernstein, organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Fukushi Tainaka, Hempton presents a set of blues-based original tunes like the shuffle grooves Night Owl and Macao Mood, boogaloo-ish Corner Bistro, the Latin-tinged tune I Remember Milady, the greasy backbeat-driven Listen Hard, Speak Easy and ballads I’m A Fool To Want You and It Shouldn’t Happen In Dreams.

Night Owl is a hot barbecue, its smells mingling with chatter and claxons on the corner of Lexington & 110th Street, neon signs keeping an eye on the hustlers, smoke rings swirling around the customers of the dingiest bar uptown, sax wailing… The nightlife, it ain’t no good life, but it’s my life… The album combines barroom excitement with modern jazz finesse, the blend that is the prerequisite for first-rate soul jazz. The sax playing of Hempton is firmly on the forefront and shades of Stanley Turrentine, Dexter Gordon, Lou Donaldson and a sleazy and husky bite complete the accessible style that is all Hempton’s own.

Bernstein is his customary crystalline, slightly angular yet melodic self, Koehler is a lively, tasteful player and Tainaka’s accompaniment is meaty and swinging – Tainaka’s resume includes stints with Lou Donaldson, Lonnie Smith and Melvin Rhyne. At one time, during After You’ve Gone, the band’s flow might remind you of the fluent bop groove of Sonny Stitt’s organ group with Don Patterson. Stitt, by the way, followed a long line of interpreters of the composition like Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. Like his forefather, Hempton is the kind of guy that devours the harmonically active changes. A moment later the quartet delivers a slice of touching balladry. Hempton’s sweet-tart take on It Shouldn’t Happen In Dreams, subtle shifts of the beat underlining heartbreak and a sense of foreboding, is the mark of a thoroughly mature jazz musician. Night Owl is highly entertaining evidence of Hempton’s flexible and passionate approach of organ jazz.

Nick Hempton

Find Night Owl on Amazon here.

Check out Nick Hempton’s website here.

Smalls Live


If you haven’t already, do sign up with SmallsLive.

The jazz club is vital to the fabric of jazz, decent and passionate owners integral to its survival as a spontaneous art form. Smalls in New York City is a good’n. Smalls was founded in 1994 by Mitchell Borden and has been a breeding ground of many figureheads and talents of modern jazz as Peter Bernstein, Ari Hoenig, Mark Turner, Norah Jones, Brad Meldhau and Chris Potter. Since 2007, the jazz club at 183 W 10th Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, has documented all performances at the club, audio since 2007 and video since 2011. The performances are up for view through live streaming and past gigs can be searched in the archive on the website. Free streaming is available but there are different options for sponsorship as well. SmallsLive is a unique concept that preserves first-class performances for posterity, directly benefits performing artists through royalties and stimulates the contemporary jazz landscape in New York City.

Check the history of Smalls here.

Rein de Graaff - Early Morning Blues

Rein de Graaff with Marius Beets & Eric Ineke Early Morning Blues (Timeless 2019)


Legendary Dutch bop pianist Rein de Graaff combines his forthcoming farewell tour with the release of a brand-new album, Early Morning Blues.

Rein de Graaff - Early Morning Blues


Rein de Graaff (piano), Marius Beets (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)


on June 27 & 28, 2018 at De Smederij, Zeist


as TI 487 in 2019

Track listing

These Are The Things
Early Morning Blues
Dear Old Stockholm
Don’t Blame Me
Little Girl Blue
Fly Me To The Moon
Lover Man
If I Had You
Early Morning Blues (alt. take)

Yes, that’s the bad news: De Graaff is retiring as a professional jazz musician. The good news: fifty years after his recording debut, the Groningen-born De Graaff delivers a jazz album that serves as but one example in his discography of the man’s masterly involvement in bebop and straight-ahead jazz. Self-acknowledged part of a small coterie of Last Of The Mohicans, De Graaff is of the opinion that straightforward jazz is hard to come by these days. No doubt, the fruitful, pre-crossover mainstream jazz landscape of the seventies and eighties, including countless playing venues and American legends carrying the flame, is by and large a thing of the past. Yet, considering the crowds that De Graaff has still drawn post-00, perhaps mostly consisting of elderly fans but also of a fair amount of youngsters, evidently the bop master has still inspired jazz aficionados and passed the peas to aspiring musicians one way or another. I was present at a rare jazz café appearance of De Graaff recently in The Hague – the 77-year old pianist usually appears strictly in jazz clubs and theatres – and noticed more than a few young lions eager to soak in everything De Graaff conjured up from the upright piano. To be sure, De Graaff has always made it his business to feature exceptional young talents on his tour schedules.

At said café Pavlov, De Graaff’s playing was remarkably fresh and energetic. Few human beings are as composed and level-headed as Rein de Graaff, who during a remarkable career as a leader and accompanist of countless legends like Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Mobley and Johnny Griffin also was the owner of an electro ware wholesale company. His straightforward personality is reflected in logical phrases and musical stories. However, the blues and a certain edge are consistently present. Most likely, De Graaff has always reserved the fiery and sleazy side of the soul for his horn-like piano style, which was inspired so long ago by the work of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Hampton Hawes, among others.

Plenty of fire in the set of Early Morning Blues, which typically consists of standards and a couple of originals and contrafacts that are tailor-made for the tasteful, long-lined stories of De Graaff. It ranges from evergreens as Dear Old Stockholm, Avalon, Fly Me To The Moon and the unaccompanied Little Girl Blue, ballads that were transformed into bop anthems by Charlie Parker like Don’t Blame Me and Lover Man, bebop compositions as George Wallington’s Godchild and Benny Harris’s Wahoo and, finally, the De Graaff compositions These Are The Things, Early Morning Blues (The album features two takes of the down-home, supple slow blues) and Moonology.

The trio interaction is marvelous. European master drummer Eric Ineke has been De Graaff’s partner-in-swing for nearly fifty years, bassist Marius Beets is a versatile modern jazz man whose pocket and immaculate choice of notes reveal a passion for Ray Brown and has been with De Graaff since 1999. Multiple examples of the group’s striking flexibility are available, Avalon and Dear Old Stockholm being particularly enchanting. Nowadays one would be hard-pressed to find the kind of cocksure and authoritative introduction of a tune like the trio’s uptempo version of Avalon. The concise combination of drum rolls, bass patterns and quicksilver piano lines is like a shot of classic jazz, like hearing for instance, filtered through their distinct personalities, bits of Sonny Clark’s Trio LP with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. De Graaff’s sophisticated harmony and Ineke’s flexible approach of the beat considerably refreshes Dear Old Stockholm. It allows De Graaff the kind of freedom within a fixed set of changes that the pianist has always been comfortable with.

In this respect, De Graaff’s daring variations on the melody of Lover Man speak volumes. Right until the very end, the Rein de Graaff Trio is seriously takin’ care of business.

Rein de Graaff

Find Early Morning Blues at your local music store and De Graaff concerts. Liner notes by Steven A. Cerra.

Check out the schedule of Rein de Graaff’s Farewell Tour below. His regular trio of Marius Beets and Eric Ineke will be augmented with saxophonists Benjamin Herman, Maarten Hoogenhuis, Marco Kegel and Tineke Postma. Special guest: baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber.

Fri March 1: De Tor, Enschede
Sat March 2: Mahogany Hall, Edam
Sun March 3: Tivoli/Vredenburg, Utrecht 16:00 (feat. Ronnie Cuber)
Wed March 6: Brouwerij Martinus, Groningen
Fri March 8: De Harmonie, Leeuwarden
Sat March 10:Theater van Beresteyn, Veendam 15:00
Fri March 15:Bimhuis, Amsterdam (feat. Ronnie Cuber)