Veteran tenor saxophonist Don Lanphere is a modern Lazarus, a bebop-blowing master brought back to life by Jesus. The 73-year-old Yakima-bred musician was a teenaged fixture on the New York scene during 52nd Street heyday. He made his recording session debut with Max Roach and Fats Navarro in New York in 1948 and hung out with Charlie Parker at bebop’s birth. By the time Lanphere was 22, he had a heroin habit, an arrest record, and had lost his girlfriend, Chan Richardson, to Parker. Ten years later, after another drug bust (marijuana), Lanphere quit the music business…for 23 years.
In 1982, buoyed by his born-again Christian faith at 60, Lanphere revived his career and has produced a succession of glorious swing-to-bop recordings topped by the recently released, Home At Last.
Liner notes credit inspiration from “Bird, Prez, Zoot and the two Sonnys,” but Lanphere’s warm, plaintive synthesis of stylistic advancements by Parker, Young, Sims, Rollins and Stitt is a very personal sound, a masterful, individual voice. On Home At Last, Lanphere’s assured, succinct improvisations are framed expertly by New Stories’ supple rhythmic support. Pianist Marc Seales is a particularly adept accompanyist and, like his rhythm team of bassist Doug Miller and drummer John Bishop, a sensitive listener who knows how to leave lots of breathing room for the leader.
Romantic ballad readings of “Alone Together,” “Violets For Your Furs,” and “Goodbye” ground the group’s more muscular workouts with a tenderness that is heartbreakingly beautiful. The confidence and virility of Lanphere’s playing is in evidence from the opening “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.” Seales stands out on that cut too. Several of the band’s arrangements are playful adaptations of the ballad form, particularly Lanphere’s clever remaking of “My Ideal” and Hank Mobley’s “ Home At Last.” Another treat is Lanphere’s elegiac soprano sax reading of “Estate” followed by the saxophonist’s most endearing homage to Lester Young, a gorgeous version of “The End of A Love Affair.” He caps a superb studio effort with a soulful, wise version of Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye.” Don Lanphere is an absolute master, and this is a masterpiece.
Personnel: Don Lanphere - Saxophone, Doug Miller - Bass, Marc Seales - Piano