American Love Song (Independent)
Dick Sisto

By John LaBarbera

One of the problems with reviewing American Love Song, Dick Sisto's first CD as a leader, is that he's a local artist. These days, this alone would prevent many from reading further and taking a chance on this excellent musical offering. Couple that hindrance with a review by a local person and you can imagine why there may be some hesitancy on the part of a potential listener. After all, there are so many choices these days; even the kid who mows the lawn has a CD on the market.

Well, even though one may never be a prophet in one's own land, we have an oracle in Dick Sisto. His empathy with the accompanying Fred Hersch Trio adds up to make this album (we still call 'em albums) one of the most refreshing mallet offerings in ages.

The program starts with a medium-tempo rendition of "Falling In Love With Love" a real "American Standard." As with all of the selections, Sisto demonstrates a clean percussive mallet technique with an originality of style. The melodic lines and flow of his improvisation keep one from trying to conjure comparisons to a more established player. "Every Time We Say Goodbye" and "Some Other Time" are worth the price of the disc. These great standards are approached with a finesse and sensitivity that give the whole CD a glow. I'm a sucker for ballads, especially if played well and these are.

Calling "Doxy" and "Monks Dream" American love songs is a bit of a stretch (no matter how much you're into Sonny Rollins & Monk) but they seem to fit the band and add a bit of variety to the well-known titles presented. Dick's own "Summer's Gone" shows his skill as a composer, making one hope his next CD will have a few more originals included in the playlist.

Since critics are supposed to find something to gripe about, I had better do my job. With few exceptions, each cut leads off with a statement of the head immediately followed by a chorus by Sisto. Had a producer been on the scene, I feel a more well-rounded distribution of solo space would have taken place. The bass would also be more present in the mix. So there, I've criticized.

Fred Hersch is an exquisite player and his trio becomes a homogeneous canvas for Sisto's mallet strokes. It was truly a master stroke on Sisto's part to snare this fine group as the foundation for this project. All in all, this CD is a must-have for jazz lovers and especially those who like standards played well.