May 13, 1963: Joe Bucci Is Wild About Basie
Joe Bucci’s Capitol LP, Wild About Basie!, garnered a 3-star review in Down Beat. Organist Bucci (1927-2008), from Malden, worked in a duo with drummer Joe Riddick in the early 1960s. His work was marked by its relentless bass lines, which he played on the foot pedals exclusively.
Organist (and accordionist) Joe Bucci wasn’t the only guy playing the Hammond B-3 in Boston in the 1960s. Hillary Rose, Fingers Pearson, Hopeton Johnson, Walter Radcliffe, and others were playing it in the South End clubs from the late fifties on.
Bucci’s big break came at the Agganis Arena in Lynn, on Aug 21, 1961, Count Basie’s 57th birthday—and Bucci and Riddick opened the show for Basie Band. The Count was impressed, and he booked Bucci for a month in his New York club. He also put in some good words in the right places, and Bucci was on the program at Newport in 1962, and recording for Capitol. The result was Wild About Basie!, an all-Basie program of favorites old and new, including “Splanky,” “Shiny Stockings,” and “Woodside.”
DB’s Harvey Pekar liked Bucci’s walking bass lines and the chords that sounded like whole sections of the Basie band. He did not like that all cuts were three minutes or less, with no time to stretch out. “The results are pleasant if not significant,” concluded Pekar. “Bucci has an extroverted approach, but his work is tasteful, and he swings easily and is reasonably inventive.”
Bucci played all the local clubs, but his home base was Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike. When Lennie Sogoloff announced his jazz policy in October 1962, his first hire was Bucci, and the always-popular North Shore resident was back an unprecedented 18 times between 1962 and 1969.
What set Bucci apart was his desire to push the organ sound. With an electronics engineer, he customized his B-3, adding a string bass module, a set of vibes in a detached cabinet that he played from the keyboard, and finally a third keyboard, cannibalized from another Hammond, to provide instrument sounds ranging from baritone sax to banjo. Bucci nicknamed this three manual-keyboard organ “the Monster,” and it could sound like a whole section of the Basie band, a noteworthy achievement in those pre-synthesizer days.
Pekar wrote that Bucci’s “unhurried approach” enhanced the melody of “Li’l Darlin’.” That comes across in this version, despite the fact it has been “enhanced” for inclusion on an anthology. The anthology also states the band is the Joe Bucci Trio, but that’s only true if you include the Monster in the band.