Rob Paparozzi - photo by Michael Sherer
The Blue Note club is a great place to experience music up close and personal. When I heard Blood, Sweat & Tears there live, which was the first time I’ve caught them, I could have swapped the three words that comprise their provocative name for Chops, Swing and Power. Simply put, I was highly impressed with this band that was amongst the very first to fuse jazz and blues with rock when they formed in Greenwich Village, NYC in ‘67. (In the same neighborhood as the Blue Note.) 44 years on, an unbelievable amount of musicians have passed through their ranks. That number, about 130, I would surmise is more than any other band has ever had. With the exception of some guest spots over the last few years by original guitarist and occasional singer Steve Katz, there haven’t been any original full time members present since drummer Bobby Colomby left in ‘77.
I was especially knocked out at how adroitly drummer Andrea Valentini and bassist Gary Foote drove the whole group, and to the degree that they were locked in with each other. That still leaves six other instrumentalists and one singer. They’ve never been a small ensemble, and surely never will be. They can’t be for what they do. Four of the players are blowing horns, with Teddy Mulet and Steve Jankowski on trumpets, Jens Wendelboe on trombone and Tom Timko on sax, all bringing the group’s signature jazzy, nuanced brass lines front and center. Veteran Latin jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval was their featured guest, and his sweet, sensitive tone and flourishes added yet another layer. Keyboardist Glenn McClelland and guitarist Dave Gellis round the instrumentation out. Their singer is Rob Paparozzi, who is excellent. He’s reminiscent of their most famous vocalist that sang their biggest hits, that being David Clayton-Thomas. Paparozzi is also a stellar harmonica player, and whipped out that oft-undervalued mouth piece for a few songs.
Many of their biggest hits were played, of course, such as Spinning Wheel, And When I Die, You’ve Made Me So Very Happy, and I Love You More Than You Ever Know, all contributing to this group’s back catalog selling an enviable number of records, that being in the neighborhood of 10 million. Interestingly, most of their most successful songs were covers, but were made more famous by them than their original writers. Of the above chart toppers, all were in fact covers except I Love You More Than You Ever Know, written by keyboardist and original lead singer Al Kooper.
The band’s name was chosen by Kooper as he was looking at the jacket of a Johnny Cash record with that title when a promoter asked him on the phone what the group’s name was. They had only recently formed and didn’t yet have one, but Kooper didn’t want to come up empty handed. He cited the words that were in front of him off the cuff, and they kept it. An emotional one, indeed. And while I wasn’t in tears per se as I was just a few feet away from the band’s heavy musical punches, their effectiveness did have my blood racing at times as they made full and clean contact.