• Jonathan Widran

GAETANO LETIZIA, Chartreuse

Perhaps the word “eclectic” is a bit overused in attempting to describe an artist who takes a loose, freewheeling stylistic approach to his or her artistry, but in the case of the buoyant, crisp and precise yet hard-swinging and grooving jazz, blues, reggae, funk/R&B driven guitarist Gaetano “Tom” Letizia, we can affirmatively add “on steroids” to the original adjective.


Smack in the middle of Chartreuse, his wild-hearted, joyfully schizophrenic 11th album as a leader, the Cleveland born and based artist and his quintet of jazz vets showcase this expansive artistry on the perfectly (and tongue in cheek) titled “Genrecide,” which jets boldly from funky, struttin’ blues/jazzfunk./hip-hop (featuring a punchy sax solo by Bob Esterle) to playful reggae and Latin vibes.

Letizia’s promo materials includes the delightful tidbit that back in the day he was friends with and took lessons from legendary genre-hopper George Benson, and also informs us about his early passion for Jimi Hendrix, later love for Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino and the fact that his rock playing was so good a promoter once told him he could be the next Joe Walsh.


With this background and array of influences, it’s not surprising that four decades into his recording career, Letizia’s adventuring from the boisterous, power-packed blues/funk jam title track and similar minded “Back & Blues” “Punch Drunk” through the breezy Latin exotica of “Expanding Reality,” the dreamy, reflective and soulful jazz/blues ballads “Paradise Found” and “Wandering” and nylon string fired Latin romp “Blue Ionosphere.”


Not that you wouldn’t expect a guy who’s still trying to figure out the intricacies of what Benson imparted to him eons ago, but Gaetano’s playing is stellar throughout, alternating between robust and rockin’ to jangling to exploring intricate scale and augmentation techniques only an educated jazzhead could appreciate.