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Another voice from Rochester jazz . . . Drummer Mike Melito

As I've promised, I'm trying to add new voices to Jazz@Rochester. I've heard today's guest post writer, drummer Mike Melito, a lot over the past few years, playing with various groupings with Bob Sneider and Phil Flanagan and others at the Strathallan, and sitting in with a number of other artists such as James Moody and Benny Golson at the RIJF. I've heard him enough that I can recognize Mike's style even before I see his smiling face. He's just a great guy and I'm glad he's willing to write some stuff for my readers. I asked Mike to write a bit about being an jazz artist here in Rochester and he sent in the following:

I’ve been a professional jazz musician in Rochester for 25 years. The jazz scene here has changed quite a bit over the years. Some years there would be all kinds of gigs and other years not as many. I would do quite a bit of driving between playing gigs in Buffalo, Syracuse and Utica as well. I can say that today Rochester probably has the most venues for jazz out of all those cities. I’ve been asked many times by people why I never moved to NYC? There are a few reasons but the main reason is the players I get to play every week here are every bit as good as most guys in NYC. I think there is a misconception about New York. People think if you live in New York you must be great. Mike Melito at RIJFThat is totally not true!! I’ve played with many guys who live in NYC and make a good living in jazz that can’t touch the guys I play with here every week.

My regular Strathallan gig has been going great! We’ve had some great guests come in to play with us. Guests have included Vincent Herring, Grant Stewart, Ralph Lalama, John Nugent, John Swana, Peter Bernstein, Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen, Don Menza, Frank Strazzeri, Rachel Z, Todd Coolman, Gerry Niewood, Pat Labarbera and many more. Bob Sneider has done a TREMENDOUS job with booking all these guests. Look for many more guests to come as well. The next guests to come are three on the same weekend! Trumpeter Jim Rotondi, bassist Lee Hudson and my brother drummer Tom Melito all play the Strathallan the weekend of April 11th and 12th. That should be a GREAT weekend! Having Bob Sneider, Paul Hofmann or Bill Dobbins on piano will be equally exciting! We play every Friday and Saturday night from 8:30pm to 12:00 am. No Cover!

I recently recorded a new CD that should be out in the summer. It’s called In The Tradition and features Grant Stewart on tenor, John Swana on trumpet, Bob Sneider, Paul Hofmann and bassist Neal Miner. I’m very proud of this record. It came out well! There are some great tunes by Hank Mobley, Sonny Clark, Tadd Dameron, plus some originals too. Stay tuned . . . .

Watch for Mike's album on my Rochester Sounds page in the future and check out his albums now on CDBaby.com.  I'm sure we'll hear (and read) more from him in the future. By the way, feel free to leave a comment and let me know who you'd like to hear from and I'll see if I can get them to write something up.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester. © Gregory V. Bell. All rights reserved.

Comments

I lived and played briefly in Rochester back in the 60's when it had substance and soul amongst the Jazz scene and community here. I would go to the Pythod Room when I was 18 and and see Wes Montgomery then to Duffy's to watch Bill Evans then to the Top of the Plaza where I first met Joe Romano playing with the Buddy Rich's Band (I later did a 9 month tour with that band and became Joe's bassist for a good many years in Rochester).I got to hang and talk with these greats and learned first hand about the craft from which I so loved. I remember Charlie mingus making me go up and play a blues on his bass with Jackie Byard while he listened and then told me what I needed to hear. There's not to many musicians left around the ROC that had to go through that.I hung around with a drummer in the ROC area named Kentucky (Billy Wilson), he was the drummer with Grant Green and Wes Montgomery. I'd sit in and play with him then on the breaks we'd go out to his car and he'd tell me what I needed to hear. I left Rochester and the Be-Bop scene when I was 20 and went to Boston to Berklee searching for new ideas and ways to express myself as a bassist. The scene there was so exciting, vibrant and explosive with new ideas. I was playing original compositions, Avant Garde (something you don't get around here unless you go to the Bo Shop) I was taught to imply the feeling of one, to trust the players you play with, to interplay with the drummer and the pianist. That opened me up like a Tiger Lily first thing after the morning dew. I felt like I had been liberated much like the Isrealites from Egypt. I said to myself WOW there is life ouside of the 40's and 50's and further than my Blue Note buddies of the Strathallan. There's an old Beech Boys Tune and line in it says "New York's A Lonely Town When You're The Only Surfer Boy Around"...and ROC can get pretty lonely for a progressive Jazz Artist. Another good expression "Water, Water Everywhere But Not A Drop To Drink". Watch for my new prgressive Jazz Trio at the Little this Fall.I like the richness of new music and I like using young musicians because they are usually more adaptable and open to new ideas and very eager to my approach to Jazz. Like Miles said once; "if I had to go up and play like I use to with my bell in the the mic I'd have a heart attack or something". Jazz is much like life and the Universe from which we live It's Always Evolving Expanding and It Should. I still have my Blue Notes and listening to them they are as fresh as the day they were recorded but just as good..... I have my internal sound that's ever evolving and also the music which evolves within me, always changing and for that I am grateful.
Sincerely,
Fred Stone

Thanks for dropping by and sharing, Fred! I'd love to have you join the voices on this site and write some more about your explorations in the music (I'm always exploring), so drop me a line soon....

Greg Bell
Publisher, Jazz@Rochester

I think one thing that gets misunderstood by many people today is there is no way to totally replicate the past. I don't care how hard you try to sound like somebody, you'll always be you because certain things will only fit you. I think stuff boils down to what people like, which is fine. I think if everyone sounded the same, it would be pretty boring. The beauty of jazz is it represents many styles and people have their favorite style they love.
When I was growing up during the 80's, I was told by a lot of people to bash and crash for excitement but the more I checked out the true greats, I noticed the drummers didn't do that for excitement? It left me confused for a minute?? I remember listening to Miles w/ Philly Joe and thinking he wasn't bashing but it was the most exciting thing I've ever heard!! I followed my heart and discovered in my early 20's that it was HOW you played the cymbal beat and HOW you generated the swing feel that made the excitement! Without that, I don't care how much you bash, it not going to be exciting (to me anyway). A great drummer named Ray Mosca really hammered home that point to me. He told me time and feel are most important!! Ray worked with everyone from Benny Goodman to Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy, Tommy Flanagan and many others. In talks I've had with some of my hero's they would say the same things Ray did. That was the greatest advice ever!
Mike Melito

Interesting comments flying around on JazzRochester.com. The musicians and jazz enthusiasts benefit from having such a cool forum and informational tool.

Jazz is an art form that embodies many influences(geographical, cultural, historical(including other types of music: classical, world music, whatever......the scope expands every year). We all have our likes and dislikes. I always say "If all jazz musicians played the same way -- it would be a very boring music". However, truly progressive jazz artists have such a deep internal understanding of the historical repertoire of the music, the vocabulary, the feeling of swing, the subtleties of rhythmic/harmonic/melodic interplay, and an ability to execute all with passion and originality. The folks that play at the Strathallan regularly(Kaupa, Dobbins, Hofmann, Melito, Ziemba, Vitale, Flanigan) and the guests such as VIncent Herring, Pat Labarbera, Ken Peplowski, Jim Rotondi, John Sneider, John Swana, Warren Vache, John Stetch, Gerry Niewood, Phil Polombi, Peter Bernstein, John Nugent, Grant Stewart, Harry Allen, Walt Weiskopf, Mike Karn, Don Menza and Frank Strazerri -- just to name a few -- are progressive players that play with conviction, originality and perform with an informed knowledge of the history of the music. All of the guests that come through remark at how flexible the quartet or trio is to nail anything called. The audiences never know what to expect -- but they are guaranteed a swingin' affair!

Every guest that comes through the Strath remarks at how the house band could be touring or playing in major cities. Often, many musicians turn down gigs where they can not bring their own band to town. However, I routinely get calls and emails from NYC's heaviest players or their management trying to hook up dates at the Strathallan.

A very PROGRESSIVE component to the Strahallan guest series has been educational programs offered through the Eastman Community Music and the Eastman School of Music's Jazz Dept. I have worked tirelessly (for no extra financial benefit) to present these great artists conducting workshops in a unique educational environment thanks to the financial support of Dr. Ned Freeman and Hal Schuler...and a few others. Some guests also conduct workshops at public schools in the area. The jazz audience of Upstate NY and the music students in the area benefit from this great partnership. We are so lucky to have a great support system of radio stations (Jazz90.1FM, WXXI 1370, WJZR), print publications(City, Freetime, D&C) and Jazzrochester.com to get the word out!

I hope more and more folks continue to support Jazz @ The Strath and all of our other venues to hear live jazz of all varieties. I am so inspired every time I hear great players play and feel lucky to be a part of it. Equally gratifying is hearing young players from the city and burbs tearing it up.

Keep up the great work at jazzrochester.com!!!!

We are so lucky to have this caliber of musicians in our city. We have venues, a few, and fabulous talent. Now all we need are the people to leave their homes and come on out to support them. Otherwise, why should these musicians stay?

I was at Tasteology again last night listening to the wonderful Rick Holland Evan Dobbins Little Big Band and was blown away by the talent but saddened by the lack of audience. There were a few people there, and it was a Monday after all, but I get so worried that all these artists will leave us for more appreciative, more supportive and larger audiences. I've commented before on how huge the crowds are at the jazz fest; and then one week later the throngs have thinned to a few, and that is so maddening. Rochester IS a place for great music; we just need to be out there appreciating it.

Please let it be known when I wrote some comments on the scene in Rochester and how undeversified it is musically I wasn't speaking about any musicians specifically. I was actually reflecting on the scene as a whole which includes the venues and the audiences and different types of Jazz available here. I have the utmost respect, honor and priviledge of playing with the musicians here in Rochester and all the musicians in Upstate New York. My intent was to comment on how the scene here could be more open to many levels of Jazz and how there could/should be more venues to support the different directions of Jazz. Rochester is very fortunate to have such talented artists residing in such a conservative town as this but also the audience should be more responsive to such deversifications of Jazz. This is a great web site and a priviledge to be able to read and write comments about the music we so love and enjoy playing. Thank you.
Sincerely,
Fred Stone
PS. I wrote the previous posted comment after a gig one night at about 2 AM so I guess I wasn't so very clear in my presentation of it, you know how that goes.

I have worked with Mike and he has GREAT TIME! He knows how to swing with a vocalist and a band no matter what size. I went to the strath when John Nuggent was performing with Bob and the clan. Need I say I was very very impressed with John Nuggent performance Mike made the night swing even more. I purchased his lastes cd and enjoy it VERY VERY MUCH it is really swingn' with a good mix. Thumbs up Mike!! Plus Mike is very easy to get along with on stage!

I am from New York city and have performed at many venues there including the Blue Note. I left New York because I wanted to continue my education, continue teaching, travel, but have a home base where I am paying LESS RENT. So I came to Rochester and was very impressed of the talented Jazz musicians and venues here in Rochester and still close to my city.

I love going to the Strath! Bob Sneider puts his heart and love for jazz in his performances presenting guest that make me feel I am in New York, swingin'improvisational moments.

Bob would tell me in my piano class,tell us where you are singing Whitney so we can support you either in town or Duabi!

I respect Bob Sneider and what he continues to do for the Jazz scene here and I will continue to support the Strath. There is just a warmness of the room and the vibe of
the players who come there. Of course I would love to sing there one day and perhaps if schedules allow this will happen in the future.

I like the Exodus to Jazz series, FlatIron, Lodge at woodcliff just to name a few.

Jazz community in Rochester is maybe hotter than what you all think! I have performed at many festivals and what you all may say with the greatst of muscians and I am honored to sing with the Music Jazz Educators Essemble on June 18th at the Rochester Jazz festival. There are some talented musicans right here in Rochester performing or just living here and on the road.

I respect the covereage jazz@Rochester gives us thumbs up.

BUT.... when Branford Marsalis came and performed recently he said "where are all the musicians in Rochester I thought they would come by and say hey?" I said Brandford
there is only so many here this is not New York they are working, teaching, out of town or have the night off to be with there families!

SO....... MUSICIANS DON'T FORGET YOUR MUSICAL FAMILY AS WELL WE WANT TO SEE YOU AT OUR GIGS TOO.

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