My Conception

Total Time – 53:30

  1. LIKE SONNY C. *^
    (Paul Hofmann)
    PBH Music BMI 6:06
    (Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen)
    Music Sales Corp./Bourne Co.
    ASCAP 5:58
    (Kenny Dorham)
    Second Floor Music BMI 6:45
    (Sonny Clark)
    Orpheum Music BMI 5:09
  5. WHAT’S NEW +#
    (Bob Haggart/Joseph A. Burke)
    Witmark & Sons ASCAP 5:24
    (Wayne Shorter)
    EMI Unart Catalog Inc. BMI 5:38
    (Billy Higgins)
    EMI Unart Catalog Inc. BMI 6:45
    (Edward C. Redding)
    MCA Music Publishing ASCAP 4:57
    (Blue Mitchell)
    Orpheum Music BMI 6:17
  • Produced by Michael Melito
  • Engineered and edited by Michael Brorby
  • Recorded digitally, August 11-12 and November 19, 1997 at Acoustic Recording, Brooklyn, New York
  • Art direction and design by Keith Kavanaugh
  • Photography by Louis Ouzer

My Conception

“Music should wash away the dust of everyday life.”

— ART BLAKEY (1971)

My general musical philosophy is to be swingin’!

I’ve learned a great deal about jazz by listening to a lot of the classic older records (especially those great 1950s and 60s Blue Note dates). These sessions featured sophisticated yet swingin’ music. And the hardest thing to do in jazz is to genuinely swing; to have clarity. But I feel that in recent years jazz has gotten away from these fundamental principles.

I’m continually striving to restore this sense of clarity and of swing. The players heard on this, my debut disc, were chosen because they follow this musical philosophy themselves.

Ralph Lalama’s authentic grasp of the music has always amazed me. I hear the strong influence of tenor giants such as Sonny Rollins and Hank Mobley in him. I agree with trumpeter Richie Vitale’s sentiments: Ralph has “a wry sense of humor” in his playing. Our only prior performance together was once in 1996.

In contrast, I’ve known Joe Magnarelli for some fifteen years. We’ve played off and on, especially when he lived upstate. Like Ralph, Joe really understands the spirit of Hard Bop. I detect a strong Kenny Dorham influence; like KD, Joe phrases from his heart – he doesn’t just play licks and run the changes – and, also like KD, is a musical storyteller.

My only prior playing with Grant Stewart was once in 1993. One of the things that really strikes me is his originality. Grant has been influenced by all the greats, yet he isn’t afraid to reach for new things; he’s what I would call “a weaver.” He consistently creates new lines that are exciting to hear.

I’ve known John Sneider for seven or eight years. I’ve always been impressed with his writing and his arranging abilities (John wrote the nice arrangement of End of a Love Affair). And as a drummer, it’s fun to play with him due to his rhythmic way of phrasing.

Paul Hofmann and I go back to 1985. I’ve always admired Paul’s sense of swing, particularly his eighth-note feel. On the strength of his overall musicality, he has a way of “locking in a rhythm section.” Because we approach this music in a similar way, we’ve had many satisfying musical experiences together.

I first heard Paul Gill in the early 1990s playing at a Washington, DC club called The One Step Down. I was instantly impressed with his huge, fat beat – as well as with his bowed solos (which really swung). And Paul plays with gut strings; this helps give the sound of jazz a degree of warmth that is too rare today. I sat in with him at the New York jazz club Smalls’ just prior to the August sessions, and we clicked immediately. Good thing; I just had to have him for this project!

melitoAll the tunes I’ve chosen are either standards or Hard Bop classics, except for Like Sonny C. (Paul Hofmann’s tribute to Sonny Clark). And we perform What’s New as a bossa out of respect to Joe Romano, one of jazz’s top tenor saxophonists, and one of my musical fathers (from Rochester, as I am, Joe was kind enough to hire me when I was seventeen years old).


Mike Melito


It is with great delight that I announce Michael Melito’s debut recording, on MHR Records.

Mike and I are old friends and musical compatriots, and I’ve long been impressed with his extraordinary approach to jazz drumming. So I am very proud to have been asked to contribute to this special project. And what a pleasure it has been!

It was thoroughly rewarding working with such wonderful musicians, as well as being in a studio atmosphere that proved so conducive to making quality music. After Mike led us all through three productive days of recording (during the summer and fall of 1997), things have now culminated in this release of “My Conception.” I believe this is truly an apt title, as these performances quite faithfully represent Mike’s conception of jazz.

The first four tunes were actually recorded at the second session. Mike kicks things off with Like Sonny C., a piece written with the great pianist Sonny Clark’s marvelous Hard Bop approach in mind. Joe Magnarelli’s vital opening solo really hits the mark! The Van Heusen/Burke standard Like Someone In Love follows. Dig Mike’s relaxed, lopin’ beat (and kudos to Ralph Lalama for his on-the-spot suggestion that we record this). Both Joe – on mute – and Ralph sound particularly wonderful here.

We next play Kenny Dorham’s masterpiece Asiatic Raes, notably covered by Sonny Rollins on “Newk’s Time.” This interesting piece – also known as Lotus Blossom – is a fine example of KD’s vibrant compositional style. Surely a reassessment of KD’s tremendous and varied talents (as trumpeter, singer, and writer) is long overdue. Winding up the afternoon’s proceedings is Mike’s quartet rendition of Sonny Clark’s beautiful ballad My Conception, featuring some sensitive playing from Ralph.

The next two tunes come from the earliest session. An interesting rendition of the old chestnut What’s New is heard first (Mike has already alluded to this version in his notes). Dig Grant Stewart and John Sneider on this! I also enjoy Mike’s nice solo, tastefully accompanied by Paul Gill. The quintet then tackles Wayne Shorter’s classic Marie Antoinette. As with so many of Wayne’s marvelous tunes, these harmonies are great fun to play over. A real swinger, nicely propelled by the rhythm tandem of Melito and Gill.

The third session yielded the final three tracks, commencing with a superb tune composed by the legendary drummer Billy Higgins: Marilyn’s Dilemma. Grant Stewart’s solo here is another outstanding example of his rare creativity, and Mike contributes another terrific drum solo as well. Next up: the sole sextet tune, John Sneider’s exciting version of the standard End of a Love Affair. “My Conception” concludes with Brother ‘Ball, trumpeter Blue Mitchell’s memorable line that pays homage to alto sax giant Cannonball Adderley. Here, Mike plays an arrangement very similar to Blue’s original 1958 recording.

It’s my sincere hope that those who appreciate great jazz – and great jazz drumming – will take wider note of Michael Melito’s unique talents. As this recording is an important step towards that end, may I offer my congratulations on a project so well-conceived…and achieved. Mike, may this be the first of many successful projects, for nobody is more deserving.

Paul Hofmann