Sonnet for Sal, Porter-Praskin Quartet with SAL NISTICO
For those of us who had the good
fortune to know and work with him, Sal Nistico was always an inspiration.
Not only did his music make a deep impression on me, but also his
complete and unwavering dedication to the music. There was something
very pure about it with Sal. Despite his stature, he never showed
signs of arrogance, preferring to break down barriers, and was always
an accessible, open-minded and down-to-earth person. He lived and
breathed the music, and this feeling of constant communion with
the muse seemed to radiate from him. Jazz was his music, his art
and his way of life, and throughout his life, he was always immensely
respected by his fellow musicians. I sometimes wonder if there will
be musicians like him in the future, given the way the music and
the industry are developing, but when I look around, I remain optimistic.
With this kind of personality, it's not surprising that Sal attached
less importance to the business side of the music than to the music
itself. This may have something to do with the fact that, later
on in his life, he didn't receive the wider recognition he undoubtedly
deserved. Perhaps the release of this CD will at least help to remedy
I first met and played with Sal
in 1975. 1 was 23 years old at the time, and Sal was 11 years older.
He had already played with Count Basie, Woody Herman, the Mangione
brothers, and as early as 1961 had recorded under his own name in
New York. I remember the first gig we played together; I guess Sal
was on the road and hadn't been able to get to a repair shop, so
there were rubber bands all over his saxophone to replace the broken
springs. The rubber bands were red, and I could see them from the
piano. In the break he had complained about having trouble with
the horn. This made it all the more mind-boggling, when he waved
off the rhythm section in the middle of a very up-tempo version
of Shaw 'Nuff and blew several choruses of solo saxophone, just
roaring through that tempo with awesome time and beautiful melodic
invention. I can only say that everyone in the room was blown away.
I knew I had heard something very special.
The tracks on this CD come from a production done at the radio
station in Linz, Austria about 13 years after that first meeting.
The gig was unusual in that the recording was done in front
of a live audience sitting right there in the studio. This
was actually very nice, because we had optimal conditions
for recording and, at the same time, the intimate atmosphere
of a live playing situation. This concert was organized by
our friend, Robert Urmann, from Linz and was part of a small
tour: Salzburg, Vienna, Linz and two nights in Munich.
Allan and I had been playing in quartet since 1982, and early
in 1988 we did some gigs in Germany and Italy with Marc, who
is originally from New York and lives near Venice, and Paolo,
who lives in Milano. We all enjoyed playing together, so we
just expanded it into a quintet later that year. Sal was enthusiastic
about the idea and agreed to do the gigs. This was an opportunity
to play a tune he had given to me and Allan in Spain five
years earlier. The tune was Touch Light Samba, and Sal had
just finished composing it, when we ran into him at a festival
in Alcalá outside of Madrid. Allan and I contributed
the rest of the tunes, some of which were written especially
for the new group. There was a great feeling in the band during
that tour. For one thing, Sal and Allan had a mutual admiration
society going on, and it was exciting having them on stage
together. Everyone had a good time and, of course, wanted
to play some more together, when it was over. Although I tried
to get some gigs, the quintet never played again after that
tour, but it was one of those unforgettable experiences, and
I'm very happy this music is now being made available. If
some of the magic of the moment comes through on this CD,
which I sincerely hope, then it was worthwhile.
Larry Porter / November 1993
1. Sonnet For Sal by Allan Praskin 9:00 2. (We'll Never Manage) This Way by Allan Praskin 14:00 3. Miracle by Larry Porter 9:23 4. Water Lily by Larry Porter 11:44 5. Elusive by Allan Praskin 7:22 6. Touch Light Samba by Sal Nistico 12:00
with Sal Nistico Sonnet for Sal
Every now and then an album stands out among the plethora
of discs a jazz reviewer receives. Sonnet for Sal,
featuring six original tunes is indeed one of these – straightahead
and a real satisfyer. Cleveland-born pianist Larry Porter
teamed with alto saxman Allan Praskin, tenor saxophonist Sal
Nistico, bassist Marc Abrams, and drummer Paolo Pellegatti.
Porter, a gifted 43-year-old pianist who earlier trained at
the Cleveland Music Settlement, Eastman School of Music, and
Berklee College of Music, has returned to the U.S. to live
in New York after residing and working in Germany for a number
of years. His discography includes many sessions as both leader
and sideman with European groups. He has also toured and performed
with American jazz legends Chet Baker, Archie Shepp, Art Farmer
This recently released album, recorded in Austria in 1988
for a live audience in the studio, was made before Sal Nistico
tragically died at age 50. Freash without veering out of the
mainstream, their acoustic fashionings are fulfilling, yet
they do not invade all the spaces. Not necessarily designed
for radio play (the shortest tune is 7:22), each long selection
has its own merits and soloists are given plenty of time and
space to develop their ideas. The band can deliver a collaborative
sound that has all the earmarks of lengthy association. Porter
and Praskin have been working together sporadically since
1982 and wrote most of the tunes on the album.
Porter’s touch on acoustic piano is light, lyrical and airy,
mostly noticeable on his own compositions, "Miracle" and "Water
Lily". His style is warmly reflective here, though I suspect
that since he has worked with Shepp he is able to stretch
out into more angular modes.
Sonnet for Sal is a jazz purist’s delight, a soulful
session to be played over and over.