Through dint of effort Jerry Grillo emerged
from nowhere 10 years ago to become one of
Milwaukee's better known jazz singers. The
effort involved a prolific number of sessions
in the recording, studio, which resulted in
a series of self-released CDs.
is the singer's "best-of" album.
Culled from tracks from six compact discs
on his own label, it features accompaniment
from some of the city's most polished jazz
musicians (plus contributions from New York
and Chicago players). Pianist Barry Velleman
is especially prominent, but the Nick Contorno
Orchestra can also be heard. The settings
range from small combos to the kind of swinging
big band that once accompanied Sinatra. Grillo's
loungy voice sounds comfortable either way.
The singer has always been fortunate in his
collaborators. On "All or Nothing at
All," the Velleman Trio caresses the
melody and rhythm, providing an empathetic
commentary that never loses sight of the song's
intrinsic value. "Georgia" gets
a restrained organ piano-bass soul jazz treatment.
Grillo's career has shifted
between two impulses: to expand the repertoire
of vocal jazz (his sessions with guitarist
Jack Grassel are noticeably absent from Vintage
Grillo) and to simply bask in the richness
of jazz from a time when it was America's
popular music. His new CD focuses entirely
on the latter. A one-time MPS teacher, Grillo
continues his educational vocation by exposing
a new generation to the treasury of American
song writing from the 1930s, '40s and '50s.