Sometimes, it’s good to just play. Forget theme. Forget format. Just
pick a song, or write a new one, and play your heart out. That appears
to be approach of the John Petruccelli Quintet with The Way
(2015), a two-disc set.
Petrucelli plays tenor saxophone. The rest of the ensemble are Peter
Park, guitar; Victor Gould, piano; Alex Claffy, bass; and Gusten
Rudolph, drums. Drummer Victor Lewis appears on three tracks.
“Prism,” one of eight originals among the 11 tracks, is a mellow,
moderate-tempo piece. The opening sequence is highlighted by some cool,
guitar/sax banter and a series of tightly choreographed, stop-time
phrases. The bass and drums are deeply engaged when the guitar is out
front, and the piano comes forward a bit more during the sax lead. As
Petrucelli heats up, he makes the tenor grind and wail during key
“The Flip,” another original, is one of those fever-pitch songs that has
the audience bobbing heads, tapping toes or simply grinning from start
to finish. You’re amazed that anyone can play an instrument with such
speed and accuracy – never missing a beat or making an awkward sound,
and keep it going for nine minutes. Gould has the spotlight for much of
that time, but it’s impossible not to notice Lewis’ stick work on the
side. When Park takes his turn, Claffy comes through a bit more. Whether
playing softly or at full volume, none of them take a moment off – save
for the absence of sax during the other solos. As if that’s not enough,
Lewis gets to show off in a call-and-response sequence that features
Park, Gould and Petrucelli in rotating bites. Eventually, they all step
back and let Lewis work it alone. One can almost hear the audience
clapping and cheering when he finishes and the others come back in, even
though this is not a live recording and there is no audience.
“Early Autumn,” a fresh take on the ballad composed by Ralph Burns,
Woody Herman and Johnny Mercer, also features Lewis on the kit. This one
is ideal for holding hands with that special someone and just sharing a
A native of New Jersey, Petrucelli has spent some time in the District
of Columbia area with trumpeter John D’Earth and in New Orleans, where
he played with Delfeayo Marsalis’ group. The 26-year-old attended
Rutgers University and now resides in Pittsburgh.
The Way is a strong introduction to Petrucelli, one that whets
the appetite for more.