|Finding inspiration in guitar heroes from Jimi Hendrix to Spencer Christian and an era of simpler times he describes as “before the commercial engines stole the music industry from us, musicians ruled the creative process, writing from their hearts,” Gaetano “Tom” Letizia has embarked on a quest for authenticity and deeper insight for his tenth album “Resurrection.” He further explains the concept in the album notes saying “this is a creative resurrection of that wonderful time when music was a love of the adventure of life, written for all.”
The Cleveland based guitarist, singer and songwriter Gaetano Letizia has been a highly-revered performer and clinician who fronts two groups; a jazz trio and blues trio, and a solo career for over 40 years. Letizia is joined on this quest by The Underworld Blues Rock Band, a six-piece band featuring Larry Keller on bass, drummer Steve Renko, and percussionist Bill Ransom along with a horn section of Tim Keehn on trombone, Mike Fisher on trumpet and saxophonist Bob Esterle. This combination fully realizes Letizia’s songwriting skills beyond his previous power trio that released their first album, “Voodoo Doll & Other Blues Lessons” in the fall of 2013.
The fourteen original tracks are a fusion of jazz, blues, pop, reggae, Latin and rock styles that venture far outside the mainstream flowing from song to song in a streaming conversation. While Gaetano is a virtuosic guitar player, he doesn’t monopolize the spotlight as a band leader and songwriter, allowing others in the ensemble to shine. The album opens with the title song ‘Resurrection,’ which is one of three touchstone tracks that create a thematic structure for the playing order. A glistening arpeggio swirls into an overdriven peek of cymbal swells and guitar growls before giving way to a sweet shuffling blues fanfare. The groove shifts to a second line beat for the autobiographical ‘Old Guitar Player’ that finds Letizia explaining his world view as a veteran musician. The horn section ratchets up the energy during the New Orleans street beat funk party ‘Hot & Cold Woman.’ Steve Renko then demonstrates his mastery of time and technique on the drum kit for the intro to ‘Standing By The Door,’ a clever slinky tune that shifts times styles and features some saucy lyrics. Seductive Latin rhythms add color to the mysterious tale of seduction ‘Nothing To Me,’ and the horns fill out the classic blues stroll that reveals the consequences of being a two-timing fool ‘Three Hearts.’ A stylish roadhouse shuffle is the back drop for Letizia to recount his dream of a conversation with Saint Peter on album centerpiece ‘Purgatory.’ The bump and grind 12/8 blues ‘Mr. Bad Luck’ is punctuated by crisp horn lines and furtive fret work and little Bari sax on the outro from added spice. ‘Sylvester Loved The Ladies’ uses a hot salsa groove to accompany the tale of local hero of the night club scene. The dance beats continue during the spooky Tango ‘Laugh In The Dark’ and the bumpy rhumba ‘Have A Little Party’ delivers the simple message “when life gets you down, have a little party,” then erupts into a Samba street parade. A tasty island styled one drop fuels the introspective ‘Talk To Yourself,’ offering a self-care solution. Letizia then posts some serious questions about our current social ills, our culture of intolerance and the modern definition of happiness during ‘Heaven And Hell.’ The ensemble closes the album with ‘Ascension,’ a gospel infusion of hope, and testimony, that declares our troubles will be washed away, if we let the music play.
Gaetano Letizia could have easily written a “standard blues” album that was a retread of familiar themes, but instead with “Resurrection” he and The Underworld Blues Rock Band chose to put a spin on the genre and offer thought-provoking music and lyrics delivered with that adventurous spirit, straight from the heart.
Rick J Bowen
Leader of the band, Gaetano Letizia, known as Tom by most, resides in Aurora, Ohio (Cleveland area). He started playing guitar at age 15 and began playing professionally in his own band the following year with his first performance at the legendary JB’s in Kent with the James Gang. Letizia then toured nationally with Buddha Records recording artists, Tiny Alice.
Letizia studied blues in the style of B.B. King as well as Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix along with a host of other great blues & jazz guitarists for over 40 years. He had private lessons with George Benson and Pat Martino both known primarily as jazz players, but are also great blues players. After graduating in 1973 from Kent State University in Business, Letizia was granted a music composition scholarship to Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music, where he studied for the next two years. After completing a six-year study of the Schillinger System of Composition with Bert Henry in 1975, Letizia went on to study classical guitar with Dr. Loris Chobanian and jazz guitar with John Stebal for the next six years as well as blues studies with Bill Jeric of the James Gang & Wolf Marshall. He is currently studying with Richie Hart of Berklee College of Music and is a Certified Berklee College of Music PULSE system teacher.
Letizia has performed with Matt “Guitar” Murphy of the Blues Brothers band at the NAMM Show in LA. He has also performed at the 20th Century Guitar Show in New York City as well as the NAMM show representing Triggs Guitars & D’Aquisto Strings. He has recorded with June Core, drummer of the Robert Jr. Lockwood band and Charlie Musslewhite’s band.