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In music, fame is not always distributed evenly, with superb artists often toiling in obscurity while lesser musicians sometimes bask in the warmth of popular acclaim.

It would be easy, for instance, to name a dozen first-rate jazz improvisers in Chicago-and in other big cities-who can put to shame the David Sanborns, the Najees and the David Benoits of the world.

For all the promotion and celebrity they enjoy, these pseudo-jazz players do not approach the musicianship, versatility or intellectual depth of the fellow who performed Wednesday night before a small audience at the Bop Shop, on West Division Street.

Rich Corpolongo, a lifelong Chicagoan, never sought the big record deals, the international tours or the heavy publicity that are required to make a major musical career these days. On the contrary, he has spent a lifetime arranging, composing, teaching, studying and, most important, playing reeds with uncommon virtuosity and eloquence.

On most any night in Chicago, chances are Corpolongo is working in a big band or an avant-garde group or, betteryet, fronting his own ensemble, as he does once a month at the Bop Shop. Never mind the size of the crowd or the allure of the setting-it's the music that makes the most striking impression. Corpolongo launched his Bop Shop set in signature fashion, gleefully merging swing, be-bop, post-bop and "free jazz" elements in a hard-hitting opening salvo. With a sound that won't quit and a piercing way of projecting it, Corpolongo instantly captures the ear. His technique enables him to throw off fast lines fluidly, his seemingly irrepressible imagination keeps the musical ideas in constant flux.

The evening's tour de force came with Corpolongo's brazenly idiosyncratic version of Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia." Unwilling to play the tune in anything resembling its original form, Corpolongo reshaped it from the outset with flurries of embellishing notes and spiky countermelodies.

After running the melody through its paces on alto saxophone, Corpolongo switched to clarinet, thereupon playing cooler, more sublime variations on the Gillespie standard. Then Corpolongo picked up his soprano saxophone, again redefining the piece with the gentlest lyricism.

Dexterously backed by pianist Larry Luchowski, bassist Rich Armandi and drummer Mike Raynor, Corpolongo ultimately reaffirmed a most heartening notion: that talent can flourish quite nicely without publicity.
Date: Thursday, July 22, 1993 Source: By Howard Reich, Tribune Arts Critic.
Section: NEWS Column: OVERNIGHT. Jazz.
Copyright Chicago Tribune.


One of the more intriguing experiments in Chicago jazz is taking place Thursday nights at the Bop Shop, on West Division Street, where three adventurous musicians are pushing well beyond conventional definitions of the avant-garde.

Of course, any trio staffed by reed virtuoso Rich Corpolongo, percussionist Mike Raynor and bassist Jeff Czech is bound to transcend ordinary expectations, if only because each of these players commands a considerable interpretive imagination of his own.

Corpolongo, who's most familiar to Chicago audiences for his alto saxophone work in Barrett Deems' Big Band, is the seasoned master of the group. Blessed with a phenomenal technique, which he applies most dramatically to the top registers of his alto, and a musical depth to match, Corpolongo does not lack for ideas, nor for novel ways of expressing them.

Raynor, who works busily around town but has been most visible as tenor saxophonist Von Freeman's drummer, is the youngest member of Corpolongo's group, but always has played with a sophistication and degree of control well beyond his years.

Bassist Czech, like his Bop Shop colleagues, works equally well in mainstream and experimental idioms, though there's no doubt that this setting is bringing out uninhibited facets of his music.

Together, these three players are challenging the most fundamental assumptions about the way jazz is made. You'll hear no ordinary theme and variations here, no solos alternating predictably with ensemble passages, no set meter, no glib tunes, no preordained form or structure at all.

Instead, these players are creating their own musical forms and their own improvisatory structures spontaneously. Thus the nature and direction of a piece sometimes changes dramatically from one phrase to the next, from one beat to the next.

Without doubt, Corpolongo's work stands at the heart of this unusual and refreshingly unfettered approach to musicmaking. Whether soliloquizing on clarinet or riffing heatedly on alto, Corpolongo establishes the essential framework for the band's sound.

Yet his improvisations are so mercurial in nature and so nimbly articulated that his colleagues and his audience must pay close attention to keep up. A virtuoso flurry of notes, for instance, might quickly be followed by a simple blues tune, which, in an instant, might give way to a seemingly aleatoric passage of passionately articulated pitches and rhythms.

All the while, drummer Raynor is either playing against Corpolongo's time, punctuating the leader's work with non-metrical rhythmic statements or slipping into a swing groove, before slipping out of it again. And Czech, fluid improviser that he is, offers standard walking-bass lines at one moment, top-register harmonics and fiercely dissonant chromaticism the next.

Yet for all the unpredictability and volatility of this music, it works, because the three players listen to each other. Imagine a Calder mobile expressed in sound, and you have a rough idea of what this trio achieves.

It's obviously not music for traditionalists or the unadventurous. But for those willing to try on new ideas in sound, it's exhilarating.
Date: Sunday, January 8, 1995
Source: By Howard Reich, Tribune Arts Critic.
Section: TEMPO
Column: Art Plus. Jazz.
Copyright: Chicago Tribune.


POST NO BILLS / Reader magazine
July 4, 1997
Joe Blow
The story of reedist and composer Rich Corpolongo, like so many other Chicago stories, is the tale of a guy who's worked hard most of his life just to keep himself squarely in the middle. He's the proud owner of an Elmwood Park bungalow with Nancy, his wife of 25 years. He can't speak highly enough of country starlet LeAnn Rimes. And he's man enough to admit that after all this time The Godfather still brings him to tears.

But when this 55-year-old regular guy released his first album as a bandleader late last year--the aptly named Just Found Joy (Delmark), on which he applies a seamless blend of bebop, modal, and free playing to compositions informed by classical writing--the national jazz press hailed him as extraordinary. "It seems like people are starting to appreciate me now," says Corpolongo, who's wearing a Bears T-shirt and spreads his vowels wide in the Great Lakes tradition. "I always wanted it, and I worked my ass off to get it."

The wanting started when Corpolongo was eight and heard clarinetist Artie Shaw on the radio in his brother's car on the way to visit their dad's grave. "I asked my brother Tony, 'Hey, what is that instrument?' The sound of the clarinet just got to me," he explains, thumping his heart with his fist. Although he took a few lessons from a cousin who was a musician, it wasn't for another three years that he began to study seriously, with the great but unheralded Chicago saxophonist Joe Daley. After four years he switched to tenor sax, continuing with Daley until he enrolled at Roosevelt University in 1960. In his early student days, he co-led a bop combo with fellow Chicago native Herbie Hancock.

It took Corpolongo six years to earn his composition degree because he took so many elective courses, an indication of his still-voracious appetite for musical knowledge. Although jazz was his first love, he figured out early that a thorough understanding of orchestral music, from theory to arranging, could only add to his skills as an improviser. "Composition and improvisation are basically the same thing, the same mental process," he says. "You create something with your imagination. The only difference is that with composition you write it out and have time to edit your ideas. From studying composition, I learned how to edit my improvisations immediately." He's proud of the fact that all eight tracks on Just Found Joy are first takes.

As he finished up at Roosevelt, that old west-side pragmatism kicked in. "I put jazz on the back burner because I had to make a living first," he says. He performed in theatrical pit bands, worked on TV jingles, gave private music lessons, and took soul-sapping wedding gigs. He married Nancy, and they bought the house. In the early 70s he played with Daley's avant-garde unit Quorum but "wasn't pursuing jazz 100 percent," he says. "It was a sideline that kept my sanity."

By the end of the decade, however, that had ceased to be enough. "I was playing a show--Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?--with a new conductor 15 years my younger, and he was telling me how to play," says Corpolongo, a hint of irritation creeping into his voice. "He had no respect for my ability at all, and I realized then that lots of younger musicians had no respect for older musicians. It was ridiculous--how dare these assholes insult me?"

Corpolongo began pulling out of anonymous pro jobs in order to focus on jazz, and in 1984 he returned to Roosevelt to earn his master's degree. He made daring records with Paul Wertico and Doug Lofstrom (as Spontaneous Composition) and Daley (as Sonic Blast). But even though he was playing jazz almost exclusively--and more exciting jazz than most full-time musicians do--the grind was getting to him. He says he'll never play Pete Miller's Steak House, Green Dolphin Street, or the Note again because all of them canceled his quartet's gigs without notification. What ended up saving him at last was his membership in the relatively conservative Barrett Deems Big Band.

I'd been thinking about getting out of the whole scene completely," says Corpolongo. "Since I was 11 I told myself, 'tomorrow could be a better day,' if I practice, if I study more, if I work on my charts...but finally I realized I had less and less tomorrows." So when Delmark honcho Bob Koester noticed him during a 1994 session with Deems and asked him to make his own record, it was just the jolt Corpolongo needed. He's since accepted a steady teaching job at Wright College, and his second album as a leader is in the works. "Eventually I would've wrung somebody's neck if I didn't get out," he says. "I hadn't given myself the chance to test my ability as a real musician, to go out there as a jazz player and just do it."

Corpolongo, who rarely performs live these days, will front a free trio with drummer Mike Raynor and bassist Brian Sandstrom on Wednesday at the Empty Bottle. His working quartet will perform at the Jazz Festival later this summer.
July 4, 1997/Post No Bills/the Reader magazine By Peter Margasak.


There's a breath of fresh air and a breadth of musical knowledge on this debut from Chicagoan Rich Corpolongo. Equally skilled on soprano sax, alto sax and clarinet, Corpolongo has written eight pieces designed for ensemble discovery more than soloing, and he has an able ensemble to perform them. Larry Luchowski shines on piano, Eric Hochberg is a solid bassist and Mike Raynor keeps the time tight. Particularly nice are "Valse" and "La Blues." Some tunes I'm put in mind of Black Arthur Blythe; others recall the Art Ensemble of Chicago in a straight ahead mode.
The Victory Review, Seattle Washington, (Vol 22, #1, January 97) by Walter White.


Rich Corpolongo "Just Found Joy" (Delmark Records)
Rich Corpolongo - alto and soprano saxophone, clarinet; Larry Luchowski - piano; Eric Hochberg - bass; Mike Raynor - percussion; with the addition of Jeff Czech - violin and Paul Wertico - percussion on "The Way It Is".

This jazz recording is quite unique. It represents the culmination of experience that Rich Corpolongo has lived in his years as a dedicated jazz musician. His influences are heavily tied to an avant-garde style of jazz composition and performance. This is evident upon the very first listening of "Just Found Joy". However, Rich's sense of compositional form, harmony, and rhythm clearly align a lot more closely to the mainstream jazz tradition than many other avant-garde "jazz" performers.

"Time Impulse", a hard driving original jazz composition where, after a stylish solo bass introduction by Eric Hochberg, Corpolongo flies right from the starting gate showing his prowess on alto saxophone without a moment to waste. He is "right there" pushing the band to its limits with screaming outbursts of energy. Larry Luchowski on piano, does an incredible job during this entire recording of balancing the avante garde forces in the compositions tending towards musical entropy with an equally demanding need to keep the harmonies and rhythms richly rooted in the mainstream tradition. The result is a recording that is both original and innovative, while strongly anchoring this performance with traditional jazz harmonies and rhythms. The piano accompaniment on the ballad, "Hey, What's Happening" is heavily tied to influences of the late pianist - Bill Evans. Luchowski (piano) and Hochberg (bass) set up a remarkable groove on "La Blues" that sounds incredibly like a guitar, though there is no guitar actually present. This is but one example of how all the musicians on this CD contribute to a rich sounding compliment of exquisite musical talent and energy. Mike Raynor on drums and percussion does an equally admirable job in balancing the avant-garde directions with the traditional. His work is of the highest caliber. The last track on this CD "The Way It Is" features Jeff Czech on violin and Paul Wertico on percussion. This work is a serious twentieth century composition. The textures are thick with an orchestral quality. Czech's performance is breathless and contains some marvelously original effects on violin. Corpolongo demonstrates some incredible clarinet work often dualing with Czech. "The Way It Is" is completely open and free but still holds onto some strong rhythmic patterns that draw the listener in like a magnet. Rich Corpolongo's performance is, perhaps, only surpassed by his ability to put together a superb amalgamation of musicians which results in this daring and brilliant performance of original jazz music.
Rob Fisch, Publisher of Jazz Friends Review 3/8/97


The Rich Corpolongo Quartet Plus Two:
Just Found Joy (Delmark).
The greatest musicians are not always the most famous, as in the case of the veteran Chicago reed virtuoso Rich Corpolongo. At an age when performers are collecting laurels, Corpolongo has released his debut recording, and it radiates the self-assurance of a master. The inventiveness of Corpolongo's playing is matched by the originality of his compositions, the sophistication of his harmonic vocabulary and the subtle shadings of his pitch and tone. Sensitively supported by pianist Larry Luchowski, bassist Eric Hochberg, violinist Jeff Czech and percussionist Paul Wertico, Corpolongo unveils one freshly conceived original after another. Corpolongo can't be pigeonholed into a particular musical vocabulary or stylistic tradition, and that's part of his appeal.
Arts & Entertainment Section, Chicago Tribune, Sunday, March 9, 1997
Chicago Tribune, Howard Reich, March 9, 1997


This year also marks an anniversary of sorts for Chicago saxophonist Rich Corpolongo. In 1966, he played on an album of contemporary religious music-his first dealing with Delmark Records head Robert Koester. Hell was depicted with wailing free jazz. "It came off pretty good", Corpolongo said.

Thirty years later, Koester and Delmark have released the 55-year-old veteran's first album as a leader-a heavenly development for Corpolongo's fans and, judging by its title, "Just Found Joy", not a bad moment for him.

Since he teamed with pianist Herbie Hancock while both were attending Roosevelt College, Corpolongo has been recognized as a potent soloist. But his devotion to his invalid mother prevented him from following Hancock to New York and stardom, and after the Beatles hit these shores, "The jazz thing started dwindling." With the advent of the synthesizer, so did jobs recording jingles. But Corpolongo sustained himself financially by playing in pit bands and artistically by teaming with progressive players, including his free jazz mentor, saxist Joe Daley and drummer Paul Wertico.

Finally, Koester was reawakened to his special talent a few years ago when he recorded the Barrett Deems Big Band, in which Corpolongo is first altoist.

Backed by his quartet, including Larry Luchowski, Corpolongo does an impressive job bridging his mainstream and "outside" styles on "Just Found Joy", a collection of originals featuring him on alto and soprano saxophone and clarinet. "Now I really want to go out there and make things happen," he said. His public eagerly awaits.

Chicago Sun-Times, Art and Show section, November 12, 1996, critic Lloyd Sachs.


Another player with Midwestern roots is Rich Corpolongo. He is been playing reed instruments with distinction for some 40 years in his native Chicago in contexts ranging from free-improv. trios to the Chicago Symphony. Yet the deeply satisfying Just Found Joy (Delmark ) is his first recording as a leader. Whether or not that fact marks Corpolongo as a patient man, the music within most assuredly does. Listen to the way he enters the fray on 'Valse', the first of eight impressive original compositions. His soprano walks in gently, suggesting the melody, pushing at the edges of the songs chord structure, testing its (and his) limits. Slowly, surely, as would Sonny Rollins or Wayne Shorter, Corpolongo builds his own statements: Implications turn into full-fledged melodies that swirl with invention, not to mention logical foundation. That we listeners can follow makes the impact of each bent note that much greater: Patience is rewarding. But Corpolongo breaths fire, too, and on barn-burners like 'Time Impulse', he more than proves it. Thing is, the underlying structure is just as sound at warp-speed; Corpolongos aquawks, squeaks, and spins are tranportive, not dizzying.

Maybe obsurity has its benefits, too. Over the course of Just Found Joy , Corpolongo demonstrates a dazzling array of talents from his approach on clarinet and soprano to his willingness and ability to juxtapose straightahead, classical and third Stream influences. 'The Way It Is', a dazzling suite, opens with Eric Hochbergs throbbing bass and Jeff Czech's pleading violin, followed by a piano section thats equal parts modal exercise and dynamic contrast. Following that, violin and bass chase one another in arco and bowed exchanges. Some seven minutes into the piece, with Czechs violin flailing way up high, Corpolongos clarinet picks up his flutter without missing a beat. The moment is magical, and, soon enough, Corpolongos off developing a second theme that bears a folk-like simplicity. Overall, this albums a sleeper hit, and a wake-up call about a brand-new longtime talent.
March, 1997 / Larry Blumenfeld editor-in chief of JAZZIZ Magazine.


If Reedist Rich Corpolongo's "Just Found Joy" CD represented his belated but excepotional debut as bandleader, his follw-up recording builds on that triumph. As Chicago listeners have known for years, Corpolongo is a profound improviser-composer who is fluent in everything from standard swing to avant-garde languages. In "Smiles," Corpolongo addresses both idioms, and most points between. Joined by pianist Larry Luchowski, bassist Eric Hochberg and percussionist Mike Raynor, Corpolongo unveils original compositions that often transcend conventional harmony and rhythm. Throughout, it's the creativity of Corpolongo's lines and the urgency of his tone on various reed instruments that give direction, purpose and coherence to his stylistically free-ranging work.

Howard Reich (published: Sunday, April 5, 1998) Section: Arts & Entertainment page 18, Chicago tribune.


"City's jazz known around world"
Rich Corpolongo: A veteran of local pit bands and big bands, the reed player didn't record his first album until two years ago. Now out with his second, the aptly titled ``Smiles,'' the serenity-spreading Corpolongo solidifies his reputation as the ultimate stylistic arbitrator in making peace among ``inside'' and ``outside'' jazz and modern classical music. In coming up with licks he didn't expect any more than you did, he is one scary talent.
April 26, 1998



Rich Corpolongo Quartet, ``Smiles'' (Delmark)
The dauntingly accomplished, risk-taking saxist bridges mainstream and free jazz and classical forms. Chicago (and Delmark) are also home to saxophonist Rich Corpolongo, a fasinating musical player and thinker. Corpolongo has achieved his own sound on the alto and soprano horn (he also plays clarinet and piccolo here), but he's clearly been affected by John Coltrane's modal work. Or at least, he feels an inner urge to leave chord changes aside. That's a smart move, considering the searching quality of Corpolongo's improvisations on Smiles, and his affinity for classical orientations. "Expressivo," which opens the CD, is a bolero that swings, "Tone Row" evokes an image of Charlie Parker and Arnold Schoenberg shaking hands. Corpolongo's quartet-- pianist Larry Luchowski, bassist Eric Hochberg, and drummer/percussionist Mike Raynor-- responds to his horn and to his concepts with great timing and invention. And though there are short bursts of free-jazz fury or hope-based drive to be found on this recording it's mostly about subtler musical ideas and pure, radiant sound. (Delmark recordings are available through Delmark: 4121 North Rockwell, Chicago, IL 60618

Larry Blumenfield is editor-in-chief of JAZZIZ.


Delmark DE 502

Rich Corpolongo-soprano and alto saxes, clarinet, piccolo; Larry Luchowski-piano; Eric Hochberg-bass; Mike Raynor-drums and percussion.

Expressivo, Experiment, Nancys Blues, tone Row, Margin of Space, Different Blues, Smiles.

A most worthy followup album to Corpolongos debut Delmark release, Just Found Joy. On that disc, his compositions and playing revealed the influence of his long tutelage and association with the late Chicago free-jazz tenorist, Joe Daley, and thats the type of music unveiled in five of the pieces here-to these ears challenging but accessible jazz, completely lacking in the squeals and shrieks indulged in by so many reed players who explore jazz not based on the major and minor scales.

Corpolongo says the other two pieces (he wrote all seven), Experiment and Tone Row are the product of his interest in the music of Schoenberg, Webern, and Stockhausen. Not that Ive heard a great deal of John Cages music but it comes to mind when I listen to Experiment.. (After writing this, I saw that I made similar remarks about no squeals and shrieks, and about Cage. In my review of the earlier disc (Jazz News, Apr-June-1997, Section II, p. 17).

Corpolongo discribes Expressivo as 'a very simple tune, a bolero.' HeÍs much too modest. The piece has an introduction (and ending) that evokes the intro to TraneÍs Love Supreme. Then a strong bass vamp does appear and persists throughout. But against that vamp Corpolongo (on soprano) and then pianist Luchowski play a very pretty ballad, one that I could imagine a gifted lyricist setting words to much more interesting than Ravels Bolero.

The leader describes Nancys Blues as 'something to show the public that we can play a traditional blues. We can still get down when we have to'. Again I disagree. No one would ever mistake this for a performance by say, Lou Donaldson or Hank Crawford. Unaccompanied bass states the head on the first chorus and repeats the head statement on the second while Corpolongo noodles around him. The altoist takes over the lead on the third and holds it for around eleven more quirky angular choruses. At some point its hard to tell where the bar line is. Hochbergs comping helps one hear that, indeed, this is the standard 12 bar blues. Luchowskis solo is much more conventional. Some release after all the tension on the alto solo. The piece ends with a stop-time chorus- only Rich and drummer Raynor-that reminds of the John Cage-like previous track, Experiment , but with blues changes.

Margin follows the modern-classical-influence Tone Row , and for the first minute sounds very much in the same vein. Then a drum break signals a transition to a much more swinging piece. The notes describe it as a 'free-jazz' piece, but while its not based on the major or minor scale its obvious to me that there is a melodic and harmonic anchor in the leaders clarinet solo. In contrast to his solo on Nancys Blues , Luchowskis fine solo here is very much in the style of that of the leader. As in many other places on this album. Hochbergs excellently recorded bass provides a powerful sense of forward motion.

The leader says that Different Blues is 'a twelve bar blues, but there are no changes in there'. I confess to bafflement since I understand the defining characteristics of blues to be a particular chord progression. I also have to confess that at the rapid tempo at which the piece is played I cant confirm that it has a twelve bar structure, but I do enjoy it.

On Smiles some excellent soprano sax playing, very much in the style of early 60s Coltrane without any of the excesses, is sandwiched at the beginning and end by sounds that might be described as 'accessible contemporary classical'.

Very intelligent music.

Mark Ladenson-JAZZ NEWS May-June-1998-Section II-18


The Rich Corpolongo Quartet
Delmark Records
Chicago, IL
1 Expressivo
2 Experiment
3 Nancy's Blues
4 Tone Row
5 Margin of Space
6 Different Blues
7 Smiles

Rich Corpolongo - Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Clarinet and Piccolo
Larry Luchowski - Piano
Eric Hochberg - Bass
Mike Raynor - Drums and Percussion

Rich Corpolongo is, perhaps, one of the greatest jazz innovators of our time. That is not said lightly. The emphasis on "innovator" can not be understated. He has such a strong sense of composition and swing that it is, at times, overwhelming. His compositions are a synthesis of the neo-classical jazz, the contemporary classical (orchestral), and the free style jazz genres. While this may seem impossible, one listen will confirm this without a doubt. These works are important! This is not just a late night jam session of old-time jazz favorites. In fact, these are brand new works. And Rich is a serious musician. But he's also fun. (Rich - You have hit your stride here! Congratulations!)

Expressivo, featuring Rich Corpolongo on Soprano Saxophone, is exactly what the title of the piece implies. Rich solos with long fluid lines that are so beautiful and expressive, that it is difficult to imagine ever wanting this performance to end. This Stravinsky-esk ballad is a remarkable example of contemporary jazz at it's finest. It is a wonderful sythesis of jazz styles and is perfect opening track to this marvelous recording.

Nancy's Blues - A traditional blues, starts off with Eric Hochberg on bass, taking the lead in the first chorus, and he swings hard. When Rich comes in on the second chorus he chimes with a strong Monk-styled melody. Eric breaks into a walking bass line on the 4th or 5th chorus and Nancy' Blues continues on with Rich at the helm, swinging right through. While the sax lines float in Rich's characteristic polytonal and atonal form, the bass adheres to a strict blues in Eb. This contrast makes for an exciting and vibrant performance. Larry Luchowski joins the piece in the middle with a classic blues solo to be followed by an equally classic bass solo. Mike Raynor's support on percussion is strong, yet subtle if that's possible. Perhaps the best way to describe Mike's work is that he has lots of taste and flair.

Margin of Space - The composition has a strong flavor of some of Woody Shaw's influence. While the piece is obviously "Rich", there is a heavy feel of the type of performance Shaw used to demonstrate in the late seventies and early eighties. Woody would lay down a really hip melody with lots of contrasting rhythms, pauses, modern tonalities and such, and just when you got used to the irregularity of these moments, the band would break into a strong swing and never let up swingin'. And that's exactly what Rich Corpolongo does with this piece, except, of course, with his own unmistakable style.

Here are some words that help describe this CD in no particular order:
Orchestral, contemporary, fresh, classic & non-traditional (at the same time), perfectly in tune, the sea, fire, Coltrane, walk, pedal, space, Smiles (lot of them!).....more!

Thank you, Rich, for putting together such a wonderful and serious and swinging and beautiful work...and thank you Eric, Larry and Mike for supporting and creating and working with this wonderful composer and performer.
Rob Fisch
Jazz Friends Review


Rich Corpolongo Quartet -- Smiles (Delmark)
Rich Corpolongo offers plenty of surprises. Take his aptly-titled "Experiment," in which the Chicago-based reedman's piccolo -- an instrument rarely approached in jazz -- performs a lively dance over a bouncy arrhythmic rhythm section, alternating moods and tempos with devious twists and sound devices. A switch to clarinet mid-tune demonstrates harmonics and classical voicings that owe some of their direction from one of Corpolongo's stated musical influences, the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Elsewhere, Corpolongo proves himself a cat with a fertile imagination, a master at his craft, and yes, a horn player who can swing a tune: catch straightahead "Nancy's Blue" and the peripatetic "Different Blues," with rhythm work of Eric Hochberg on bass, Mike Raynor on drums and Larry Luchowski on piano.

Corpolongo's writing skills are haunting and ethereal -- title song, "Smiles" showcases the leader's compositional voice in a melody that is positively sublime.
Rick Marx (1998)

September/October 2010

For Many Of the Musicians in and around Chicago, Rich Corpolongo's name is familiar. They've played alongside him on big band gigs, jobbing dates, or at jam sessions. They've heard about the two albums on Delmark previous to this one, and they generally know him as a pretty nice guy. Get Happy is a vast departure from his two previous albums, Smiles and Just Found Joy. Instead of the clearly avant-garde directions of those two albums, Get Happy is the sound of guys playing the songbook standards that they love in a comfortable setting. Considering that they actually get together to play every week, the looseness of this disc makes more sense. Even the front cover screams LOOSE BLOWING SESSIONS with all three in T-shirts and jeans next to their instruments and chilling out. As a collection of tunes that everyone knows, done at a nice, people-friendly pace, this is a fantastic record. Even if standard records are a dime a dozen, the people putting them out usually aren't world class players. Jones, Shapera and Corpolongo most certainly ARE. That difference is obvious when you hear the authority with which Corpolongo tears into the changes on without A Song, or the absolutely relaxed quality that Rusty Jones brings to his fours with Corpolongo on Chi Chi. Body and Soul is played straight forward, without a need to blow the listener out of their seats through the use of drama or histrionics. My favorite track on here is the beautifully understated version of Lullaby Of The Leaves. Taken at a nice mellow pace that neither depresses nor harries, it's a great tune to listen to repeatedly. Get Happy is not a disc that you'll buy because you want your mind blown. It's the kind of disc that you buy because you want to hear a living piece of history doing the music that he loves with people he loves. On that level, it succeeds admirably. Heck, on a whole bunch of levels it succeeds admirably! If you're a fan of straight ahead jazz played just a smidge left of center, then Get Happy is your disc. -Paul Abella

RIch Corpolongo - GET HAPPY by James Hale **** 4 Stars!!! DOWNBEAT

At 69, Rich Corpolongo sounds like the archetypal journeyman, with complete command of his instrument and nothing left to prove. Even when the tempo is bouncy as it is on Charlie Parker's opening "Chi Chi," Corpolongo sounds like he's in no hurry to say his piece. Fronting a trio and concentrating on tenor, he takes his time, stretching all but one song over five minutes and relishing the interplay with bandmates Dan Shapera and Rusty Jones. With that playful interchange and a real-time recording approach, Get Happy comes as close to capturing a working band on the job as it gets in studio. The only drawback is that Shapera's bass sometimes gets swallowed up by Corpolongo's broad-shouldered sound, while Jones' drums can get a bit too resonate in the live room."

From The Reader's Peter Margasak
Rich Corpolongo Trio
Chicago reedist Rich Corpolongo recently released his first album as a leader in 12 years, Get Happy (Delmark), a wonderfully naturalistic trio recording with bassist Dan Shapera and drummer Rusty Jones. On previous efforts Corpolongo has focused on rigorous original material with an exploratory bent, even dipping into avant-garde techniques like serialism, but here he embraces old-school postbop-the program consists entirely of jazz standards, bookended by the Charlie Parker classics "Chi Chi" and "Dewey Square." The session was recorded by local engineer Ken Christianson with just two microphones, lending it a warm, roomy sound, and given the instrumental format and Corpolongo's buoyant tenor-sax style and gift for motific improvisation, it's hard not be reminded of vintage Sonny Rollins. Corpolongo has been working with Shapera and Jones for years, and you can hear it in the band's effortless grace and intuitive spontaneity. Get Happy isn't as bold as some of his older work, but it's as joyous as any jazz record I've heard this year.

Rich Corpolongo-Get Happy-Delmark 592

Posted by: emenari3on Thursday, September 02, 2010 - 11:17 PM

Some years ago, it seems like decades I first caught reedist Rich Corpolongo with Marshal Vente's big band. Heretofore only having a vague idea of who he was over the years hence I've come to have a healthy respect for his prodigious abilities as an accomplished musician. Not having heard any of Mr. Corpolongo's prior Delmark recordings I was in for a slap upside the head upon listening to his latest, 'Get Happy'. After repeated listening what came to mind was how reminiscent he was of the late Chicago legend, master saxist Joe Daley! Then another slap upside the other side of my big noggin when the revelation hit me like a ton of bricks! Well guess what friends? Rich Corpolongo was a Daley acolyte! Duhhhhhh!!!!! A quick perusal of Rich's web page bore that out. He and Daley were 'thick as thieves'! They were a hot item for some years little did I know. But the history of jazz is abundant with stories like this one. Daley's gone on but Rich Corpolongo upholds his legacy. And proudly! "Get Happy" is a tour-de-force in your face, pure jazz sax trio if there ever was one. A master himself Corpolongo joins forces with two other masters in bassist Dan Shapera and Rusty Jones, who at this juncture in history is one of the greatest living drummers around. Highly musical and ever alert, Jones is a lyrical percussion painter who summons the nimble flexibility of a Buddy Rich to the polyrhythmic determinism of Elvin Jones. More importantly he's his own man and is a joy to hear (and to watch). Long noted for his alto sax and smaller reeds this time out Corpolongo handles the tenor. And man does he handle it! Could this be a 'tribute' to his mentor Joe Daley? After-all Daley was well known for his tenor-bass-drum excursions. A 'freedom' traveler well versed in the rules of the road Daley could be 'outside' yet possess a grounded 'inside' methodology. To the max degree Rich Corpolongo and his men flesh out a vibrant program of 'standards' that won't disappoint any listener. In the relaxed atmosphere of an acoustic friendly small theatre housed in the Sherwood Music School Corpolongo and crew swing, swoop and maneuver up and over "Mangoes"; "Dewey Square"; "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" and several others including the title tune. With this superior recording one could only wish more success, notoriety and gigs for a well deserving Dan Shapera, Rusty Jones and Rich Corpolongo. Lord knows they surely can use it. An audience awaits!

Rich Corpolongo, Tenor sax; Dan Shapera,bass; and Rusty Jones, drums By L.A. Emenari, III

Get Happy

Rich Corpolongo Trio | Delmark Records (2010)

By Nic Jones

This is a trio that harks back to Sonny Rollins' work with piano-less groups over half a century ago, but there's nothing slavishly imitative about its music. Instead the evocation is joyous enough by itself to justify the title, and the uncalculated way in which the group goes about its work underlines it. Corpolongo's tenor sax sound is rich and sonorous and it's clear from the beginning that he's an advocate of the Coleman Hawkins school despite the fact that his tone is on the round side and his phrasing is both fruity and exuberant. Now there has over the years been a number of players of the Hawkins persuasion whose profiles have been far higher than Corpolongo's but on the basis of the evidence here the man has a lot more to say than they did. His eloquence on the title track is a model of driving economy while such is the understanding that the trio enjoys that the music is never a vehicle for empty rhetoric. The leader might be making himself a hostage to fortune in covering "Body And Soul" but part of the game here is finding new things to say on such warhorses. He manages to accomplish this task, which is not an inconsiderable feat in itself, but what seals it is the innate understanding that the trio has, which in this case results in collective music-making of a kind that quite against the odds still sounds fresh. Their take on bop as exemplified by their reading of Charlie Parker's "Chi Chi" has the same quality. Such is the way of these things that passing time has taken the edge off what was once radical, but here that aspect is overtaken by the sense of a group keeping it tight because they positively don't know how to take it otherwise. Drummer Rusty Jones proves himself to be a master of nuance and veiled reference and even while doing this he knows the power of keeping the foot only lightly on the accelerator. Those in pursuit of live jazz would likely not be disappointed to come across this trio. For all the venerable qualities of the program they offer, their work is in essence an espousal of timeless verities. It's caught in such fidelity here that it's not all that far from that live experience either.
Track listing: Chi Chi; Mangoes; Body And Soul; Without A Song; The Boy Next Door; Get Happy; Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams; Lullaby Of The Leaves; Dewey Square. Personnel: Rich Corpolongo: tenor sax; Dan Shapera: bass; Rusty Jones:

Music and More

Rich Corpolongo - Get Happy (Delmark, 2010)

By Tim Niland

Classy small group jazz that harkens back to the classic trio recordings of Sonny Rollins can be found on this album. Rich Corpolongo is a tenor saxophonist with a large and appealing tone, playing classic bop, blues and ballads in the company of Dan Shapera on bass and Rusty Jones on drums. Sounding like a long club set in a basement jazz club, the trio opens and closes the album with Charlie Parker compositions, setting down their intentions for the music at hand. "Chi Chi" is a medium tempo performance that builds and develops over a lengthy reading. Parker's "Dewey Square" is a faster more standard bebop performance that develops to a fast pace with trio running like a finely oiled machine. Spinning out the standard "Body And Soul" is a requirement for tenor players, and Corpolongo takes it with patient authority, developing a lengthy solo backed by subtle bass and drums. It's probably not fair to compare Corpolongo to Sonny Rollins, but the format and the thoughtful and melodic improvisation Rollins pioneered is certainly what he is striving for. He and the other members of the group succeed quite well and fans of mainstream jazz that is rooted in the bebop/hard-bop bedrock will find a lot to enjoy here. Get Happy -

Get Happy

Rich Corpolongo Trio | Delmark Records (2010)

By John Barron

Tenor saxophonist Rich Corpolongo is a well-known figure on the Chicago jazz scene, having performed for decades with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Mel TormŽ and drummer Barrett Deems' big band. An author of four books on improvisation, Corpolongo is known for exploring a variety of jazz styles, from standard swing to avant-garde. For Get Happy, his third release on Delmark Records, the veteran reed man recalls the piano-less trio sound of tenor giant Sonny Rollins, with a straight-ahead live recording from Chicago's Columbia College.
Throughout this toe-tapping disc, Corpolongo's musings rise from the bebop well with the indelible markings of saxophonist Charlie Parker. Indeed, the disc is book-ended with two medium-tempo Parker classics, "Chi Chi" and "Dewey Square." With the support of only bass (Dan Shapera) and drums (Rusty Jones), Corpolongo is allowed the freedom to straddle the ins and outs of a tune's harmonic structure. Standard gems such as "Without a Song" and "The Boy Next Door" and the title track, find the leader in a playful state, twisting his lines into contorted shapes while maintaining a cool soulfulness.
The influence of Rollins is evident, not only in Corpolongo's improvisations, but in the way he manages a melody. His sly reading of "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" and "Lullaby of the Leaves," for example, contain out-of-left-field octave jumps and ornamental flourishes, bringing a delightful sense of unpredictability to the familiar.
All in all, Get Happy is an attention-grabbing listen from a seasoned improviser with a remarkable story-telling ability.
Track listing: Chi Chi; Mangoes; Body and Soul; Without a Song; The Boy Next Door; Get Happy; Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams; Lullaby of the Leaves; Dewey Square.

Rich Corpolongo Trio - Get Happy (Delmark)

_Tenor, bass and drums projects will probably forever be name checked against Sonny Rollins' pioneering parables with the form. In the case of Rich Corpolongo the connection fits. As one of the younger old reliables of Delmark's current tenor stable, his latest release is a long overdue showcase for his talents sans piano. Along for the ride, but also willing to take the wheel when tapped are bassist Dan Shapera and drummer Rusty Jones, Chicago-based session men who fill their respective instrumental roles with journeyman skill and the goal of making their employer look good. __The program is ripe with blowing vehicles in the guise of standards, from a pair of bookending Bird tunes to the lesser picked standard Mangoes. Corpolongo and his colleagues indulge in each one in earnest. Applecart-upsetting surprises are few, but there's no faulting the caliber of tenor play brought to the party. Corpolongo counts Coleman, Bird and Coltrane as his principal points of influence and each man is apparent in his philosophy toward improvising if not explicitly audible in the personalized manner with which he phrases a line. A relaxed sally through Body and Soul, largely unaccompanied, has the tenor choruses spooling out at length and the leader reveling in his own brand of spontaneous composition. __The notes make complimentary mention of the old school recording techniques used to capture to the music. Curiously, the sound quality is the only slight sticking point with the session to these ears. A bit boxy and flat, a two-mic in theater space set-up doesn't seem to do the players any favors, particularly in the case of Jones who comes across as discouragingly diluted in conversation with Corpolongo on the otherwise amiable and invigorating Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams. Still, this is a minor quibble and one easily eclipsed by the sustained lan and swagger of Corpolongo and crew. Fans of Chicago tenors classic and contemporary would do well to give this date a considered shot.
Derek Taylor - posted in ALl About Jazz

Rich Corpolongo Trio - "Get Happy"

by Brad Walseth

(Delmark)_Recorded live with no overdubs by Ken Christianson at a theater at the Sherwood Music School, Chicago tenor saxophone veteran Rich Corpolongo's Get Happy (his third release for Delmark) is a throwback to another era, when the emphasis was on the music and performance not and laser light shows. Corpolongo is assisted by two other mainstays of the Chicago jazz scene: bassist Dan Shapera (with whom Corpolongo served in Barrett Deems' big band) and drummer Rusty Jones. There are no frills here - just three fine musicians taking on a choice selection of well-and-lesser-known standards. Charlie Parker's "Chi Chi" - the first of two Parker compositions handled opens and the sound is reminiscent of Sonny Rollins' classic solo work. "Mangoes" - made popular by Rosemary Clooney - gives Jones an opportunity to show his versatility as he provides a wide range of percussive sounds on this Latin-tinged and upbeat number. Get happy, indeed! You'll be hard pressed not to smile during this infectiously fun tune. It takes cajones to take on the oft-covered "Body and Soul," but Corpolongo shows know fear as he tosses his hat into the ring as an interpreter of this great song. His tenor sound is full and rich, but also clean and melodic with impressive but not showy technique. Bassist Shapera also deserves kudos for his tasteful work. These three vets truly know their way around a song with a capital "S." The Sonny comparison again comes into play with their choice of "Without a Song" - which Rollins made famous on The Bridge. Corpolongo gives it his own directions and plays it a bit cooler, but it is still a fun and exhilarating ride. Other tracks include a leisurely-paced "The Boy Next Door," rip-roaring title number, sweetly-swinging "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," all-time favorite "Lullaby of the Leaves" and Parker's brilliant "Dewey Square." Fans of well-played, straight forward, no-frills release will have plenty to get happy about here.

Rich Corpolongo Trio

Get Happy
By Glen Hall

The album title gives appropriate orientation: these guys sound like they're having fun and listeners will too. Tenor saxist Rich Corpolongo has been a fixture on the Chicago scene for years and has contributed deeply to the city's jazz culture. On this nine-track CD, he, bassist Dan Shapera and drummer Rusty Jones display a relaxed rapport that facilitates an easy in-and-out movement between straight-ahead chordal improvisation and freer playing that always remains melodic and accessible. A mix of standards and bebop is the trio's modus operandi. Tunes like Bird's "Chi Chi," delivered at a comfortable mid-tempo, and "Body and Soul," played a tad faster than usual, all sound warm and user-friendly. Echoes of Sonny Rollins' trio work are everywhere, especially in the staccato phrases. Coming from a city that spawned tenor greats like Joe Daley and Von Freeman, Corpolongo upholds a noble musical tradition. His Get Happy delivers on the promise of its title. (Delmark)

From: Jenell Kesler
Date: July 24, 2010 11:45:49 AM CDT
To: Kevin Johnson
Subject: Rich Corpolongo
Hey Kevin ... Glad you had a good time on your holiday. Mine's not happening til November, then it's off to tour with my friends Dean & Britta on the left coast. Thanks for Rich Corpolongo ... mighty nice:
OK ... I've flipped my pillow for the sixth time in the last hour, and the AC seems to be sparking just enough cool air to make me restless, sleepless, wanting for all the world to have my brain feel like anything but mush. Which pretty much explains why I'm headed for one of those all-night stainless steel dinners that specialize in real-deal milkshakes, spicy chicken nuggets, and those cheese-fries that have a habit of calling out to me in the middle of the night. Call it serendipitous if you will, but the first disc I came up with, in the blue glow of my dashboard lights, was Get Happy by the legendary Rich Corpolongo Trio ... and when the first notes filtered from my car speakers I felt jazzed, popping, alive ... kids, I was swinging from the stars that were smiling down from my moonroof.
Get Happy ain't one of those pieces of wax that's destined for deconstruction, it's about the sheer pleasure it brings, it's about the mile wide smile that's settled across my face, making me feel like I've stepped back in time, and even the warm breeze that's blowing through my hair is feeling pretty damn good. It wouldn't be 'til I'd settled into my big over-stuffed booth, disc in hand, that I discovered the reason for all of this, and man, it made me feel so good to be alive. I have to tell you, this is without a doubt one of the first true stereo albums I've heard in a very long time, and Rich went to great lengths to deliver this sound, using but two mics strategically placed, and then laying out a sensational outing, free of over-dubs, and nothing but pure sound. Man, this is stereo like we first head it, when it flipped our wigs as we bounced from one speaker to the other, the music flowing like water, no layering, just instrumentation that mixes, meshes, and rides, causing you to become the band-leader, jabbing at notes with your fingers, flashing your eyes at musical nuances, and rolling your head in time with the groove. Rich and his trio may remind you of your first experience with Sonny Rollins, but mind you, it's only because of his straight ahead no nonsense grab you by the toes jazz formate, and he wraps his arms around two of Charlie Parker's best numbers, Chi Chi, and Dewey Square, though making them his own.
Well ... the chicken nuggets are history, there's a couple of cheese-fries left, and I'm thinking about ordering another black & white for the ride home ... something as simply elegant as Get Happy.


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