JOHNNY FRIGO AND GUS GIORDANO: SHALL WE DANCE?



Johnny Frigo/Gus Giordano: Apollo + Black Sound
From Afro-American Jazz Dance (Orion, 197?). “Apollo” also available on Collected Works.

For rare groove collectors, jazz dance albums fall into a similar category as so-called “sound library” records: highly specialized, off-the-beaten path, and at times, a revealing and compelling listen. The thing about both kinds of albums is that the studio bands hired for them are not under any kind of commercial pressure to make “hits” that follow any formulaic impression. On the other hand, given their purpose, they’re not trying to go all avant garde either. You’ll find interesting, even inventive grooves that balance a loose, creative spark with a nod towards accessibility.

In any case, there are a few staple jazz dance labels and artists, including Hoctor, Statler, and Orion – the latter being the home for many albums by band leader Johnny Frigo and constant collaborator, dance instructor Gus Giordano. Ubiquity Records released a solid anthology that collected about a dozen Frigo/Giordano songs. Their work was impressively diverse in sound, ranging from the funky chatter of “Scorpio” to Afro-Latin jazz of “The Arabian” to the included cut above, “Apollo.” It’s a lovely, easy-tempo tune built of some slick guitar work reminiscent of Wes Montgomery. Same goes for “Black Sound,” which is on the B-side of the Afro-American Jazz Dance LP. Super-mellow and I like all the subtle conga work layered underneath.

Two trivia points: First of all, there is a song on the A-side called “White Sound.” I don’t know if the color-coding is meant to reflect some kind of racial sensibility (not that I could tell from listening to both). Second, I’ve had a different version of this album for over a year…it’s entitled “Afro-American Jazz Rhythms,” has a different cover and the A-side is the same as the above album but the B-side is totally different (and thus, does not include “Black Sound”).

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