Take cover behind a bass clef and yell "Timbre" and hearken to six baritone saxophonists featured on five albums. There area few octet tracks on Joe Temperley's CD, but also quartets and duets, and the other CDs range from quartet to sextetwith another bass clef horn, the trombone, featured in Denis DiBlasio's Quintet and the sextet on Jam Session, Vol. 26. It's a celebration of the voice of that sax usually holding down the bottom chord in big band reed sections.
Harry Carney, the anchor of Duke Ellington's sax section for half a century, was the first celebrated voice on the baritone. Joe Temperley held down the Carney chair in the Ellington Orchestra under Mercer Ellington and is a direct descendant of Carney, as both a full-toned player and romantic swinger. But he's not the only baritone referencing Carney on these CDs. Ed Xiques channels Carney's lyricism on the Duke's "In A Sentimental Mood," his ballad feature on the Jam Session CD, and there are shades of Carney's rhythmic rumble from every other baritone here, especially George Haslam. But Carney isn't the only inspiration invoked on these albums.
Dale Fielder's CD pays tribute to the great hard bop baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams while Haslam's CD mirrors the quartet formatbaritone sax, trumpet, bass and drumspioneered by Gerry Mulligan. Themes, some more schematic than others, provide unity within each of the albums; most overtly on Temperley's in sessions that adhere closely to the aesthetic of Sinatra's 1950s and early 1960s "swinger" years, from the signature "heartbeat" tempos to echoes of the Nelson Riddle and Billy May arrangements.
Haslam, a British saxophonist who was impressive as part of drummer Charlie Watts' uber-big band when it toured in the US, puts his distinctive primacy-of-rhythm concept on a program of standards. Fielder concentrates on Adams' compositions, applying an elegiac tone. DiBlasio's is the only CD built around a personal compositional strategy, one described as devised "to create inherent moods for each piece.". And the Jam Session CD recalls the loosely structured format of allstar sessions built around standards perfected by Norman Granz on his Verve and Pablo labels.
The Sinatra Songbook, with octet arrangements by guitarist James Chirillo or saxophonist Andy Farber, is a perfect showcase for Temperley's baritone and soprano sax, as well as a fine example of forward leaning neo-swing. Nothing is cloyingly atavistic here and there are surprising touches like the suggestion of George Shearing Quintet voicings on "I'll Never Smile Again," a bebop bounce on "I've Got You Under My Skin" and even a modernistic contrafact rendering of "Fly Me To The Moon" as Chirillo's "Moontune". Fielder's take on Pepper Adams is unusual in emphasizing slower tempos and ballads, approached with a rich, galvanizing tone. That Adams was a swinging hardbopper is all but ignored, but reviving his tunes reminds us that he was also a first-rate composer. Fielder's own compositions, the two final tracks, suggest a post-bop, John Coltrane influence.
Although Papermoon shares the Gerry Mulligan Quartet format, it doesn't share its sound except for some horn polyphony and tandem soloing. Where the Mulligan sound was cool, even suave, Haslam's is harder, more emphatic. The baritone and Steve Waterman's trumpet are more metallic, Haslam's sound bronze corduroy, the trumpet music hall brash. And Robin Jones stresses big, ringing ride and crash cymbals (contrast them to the delicate cymbals from DiBlasio's drummer Joe Mullen). Haslam revels in jaunty rhythms like the calypso-inflected one on the title track or the chugging ostinato of "The Continental". A creative take on a classic format.
There's a spiritual quality, a metaphysical vibe, to DiBlasio's Where the Jade Buddha Lives. Some of the titles invoke religious themes and the exquisite sonic detail and cerebral approachsleek tempos, wafting rhythms, ruminative soloswould make a blindfold test on labels suggest ECM. Pianist Ron Thomas' spare touch and meditative approachreminiscent of Bill Evans' "Peace Piece"especially has that ECM feel. DiBlasio, who also plays bass flute and flute on a couple of tracks, has been known as a hard charging baritone (he anchored one of Maynard Ferguson's bands) but here he favors a gentler, but admirably versatile, approach, favoring a light vibrato at times but never foreswearing the gutsy end of his range nor the occasional quicksilver boppish run. But the CD is most impressive on the leader's terms, as a fulfilling expression of particular moods.
Ed Xiques and Jay Brandford provide a real contrast in baritone sax on Jam Session, Vol. 26, with Xiques the lighter toned, less timbre rattling, more linearly lyrical player; Brandford deeply rumbling, rhythmically stomping and favoring riff-patterned solos. Add Conrad Herwig's always impressive trombone and pianist Andy LaVerne's classy solos and uncliched standards choices and the bass and drums team of Steve LaSpina and Darren Beckett to the mix and you have a first-rate session. Highlights include a way-up "Alone Together," a Latinized "You Stepped Out of A Dream," heartbeat-tempoed (shades of Sinatra) "I Thought About You," and a "Blues Walk" with horns trading down incrementally from full choruses to one-bar exchanges.
Tracks and Personnel
The Sinatra Songbook
Tracks: Come Fly With Me; Everything Happens To Me; Moontune; PS I Love you; Day by Day; Nancy; All The Way; I've Got The World On A String; I'll Never Smile Again; In The Wee Small Hours; I've Got You Under My Skin; Put Your Dreams Away; Goodbye.
Personnel: Joe Temperley: baritone sax; James Chirillo: guitar; Andy Farber: sax; John Allred; trombone; Ryan Kisor; trumpet; Dan Nimmer; piano; John Webber: bass; Leroy Williams: drums.
Plays the Music of Pepper Adams
Tracks: Rue Serpente; Enchilada Baby; Boss Allegro; Lovers of Their Time; I Carry Your Heart; Bossa Nouveau; Baubles,Bangles and Beads; Now in Our Lives; Frugal Apathy; Dimensions.
Personnel: Dale Fielder: baritone, alto and tenor sax; Jane Getz: piano; Edwin Livingston: bass; Thomas White: drums.
Tracks: It's only a Paper Moon; Recado Bossa Nova; The Continental; St James Infirmary; I've Never been in Love Before; What's New?/For all We Know; Out of this World.
Personnel: Steve Waterman: trumpet and flugelhorn; Steve Kershaw: bass; Robin Jones: drums; George Haslam: baritone saxophone.
Where the Jade Buddha Lives
Tracks: Distressing Disguises; Buonarroti's Ceiling; Teach Me I Dare You; Baby Dom; Song of India; The Truth Will Out; Where the Jade Buddha Lives; The Puppy's Not Cute Anymore; The Long Goodbye.
Personnel: Denis DiBlasio: baritone saxophone, flute; Paul Klinefelter: acoustic bass; Jim McFalls: trombone; Joe Mullen: drums; Ron Thomas: piano.
Jam Session, Vol. 26
Tracks: Alone Together; I Thought About You; Triplicate; ; In A Sentimental Mood; Left Alone; People Time; The Blues Walk; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; It's You Or No One.
Personnel: Conrad Herwig: trombone; Steve LaSpina: bass; Andy LaVerne: piano; Darren Beckett: drums; Jay Branford: Baritone sax; Ed Xigues: baritone sax.