A Swingin’ Discovery

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Life is full of little surprises and sometimes those little surprises can be delightful. One came my way recently when I was listening to an internet jazz radio station. The host, a fellow by the name of Denny Farrell, was at a live swing music event, and was interviewing the musicians—two brothers by the name of Midiri. Then I heard the Midiri brothers play, and I became an immediate fan. As Louis Armstrong might have said, man, these cats sure do swing!
For those of us who love swing and big band jazz, finding these guys is like manna from heaven. They play in the Benny Goodman style, using charts right from the era. To listen to them, you’d think they must have been playing with the Big Bands but no, they are relatively young, probably in their early 40’s. I checked into their Web site (www.midiribros.com), and found out more info.
The brothers are New Jersey boys, Joe and Paul. Joe plays clarinet and saxophone, and Paul plays the vibraphone, xylophone, marimba, drums and trombone. The Midiri Brothers play not only jazz but also classical music. They have been playing since graduating Glassboro State College in the mid 1980’s, and can be heard leading groups ranging from trios, quintets, sextets and big bands all featuring Joe’s outstanding clarinet.
Initially performing only on the East coast, the boys finally branched out and made their West coast debut in 2002, and now perform at many West coast jazz festivals throughout the year. These include Mammoth Lakes Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Pismo Jubilee by the Sea Jazz Fest, Redwood Coast Music Fest and Sun Valley Swing-n-Dixie Jazz Jubilee. The Midiris also perform in jazz clubs on a regular basis from Chicago to Florida. They continue to play concerts and dances in their home state of New Jersey. Their big band features many of the arrangements of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and the Dorsey Brothers, as well as many of their own arrangements.
They have had major articles written about them in both The Mississippi Rag and The American Rag, both respected jazz news papers. The L.A. Jazz Magazine stated “Catch them whenever you can!” as well as “Their sextet is one of the most exciting small group swing units around today.” Bob Fallstrom wrote in the Herald-Review, “I’ve seen and heard hundreds of clarinet players, and Joe Midiri is the best… I’ve seen every Joe Midiri set here, enthralled by his tone, his technique, his creativity, his imagination and sound.”
And I totally concur with Mr. Fallstrom. I own quite a lot of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Dorsey recordings; I listen to them frequently, and I can tell you the Midiri Brothers are right up there with the greats. Beyond being good musicians, they have that certain indescribable something in their soul, a feeling, an innate sensitivity to the style of swing. It may sound corny but it’s what separates the mediocre from the great.
I caught a glimpse of them on YouTube, and let me tell you, as good as they sound, watching them perform is even better! The next time they’re out in California, I plan to see them in person, which will probably mean the Pismo Beach Jubilee by the Sea in October. In the meantime, I’ll have to be content ordering up a couple of their albums. They have about seven or eight recorded that are all available off their Web site.
It is such a pleasure to discover real musical talent is still around, and being performed and appreciated in America in 2009. With all the junk we are exposed to on a daily basis, with all the ugly noise we’re assaulted by from TV, movies, shopping malls and almost everywhere we go, who’d a-thunk that a couple of New Jersey guys are still swingin’ beautifully at gigs from coast to coast? Thank you, Midiri Brothers, for keeping swing music alive and well a little longer.

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