Ben and Frank Perowsky with Sam Yahel: Bop on Pop (2003)
Bop On Pop is a trio session that explores the bebop and hard bop roots of jazz from the ‘40s and ‘50s. The disc features Ben Perowsky on drums; Frank Perowsky, his father, on tenor saxophone and clarinet; and Sam Yahel on organ. The chosen songs are mainly standards associated with a few of the "founding fathers": Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Horace Silver - as well as a grateful nod to "pre-bopper" Fats Waller. The trio performed most of these songs during a gig last month at the Cornelia Street Café, where pianist Kevin Hays was a last-minute replacement for Yahel.
The disc opens with Davis' "Vierd Blues," which begins with Frank Perowsky stating the theme alone on sax as Yahel and Ben Perowsky fall in behind him. Ben keeps a solid, steady, cymbal-dominant groove going throughout. After they run through the theme twice more, Frank launches into a languid, bluesy solo, initially spare but increasingly more inventive as he warms to the task, after which the notes and ideas come out in spurts and brief flurries. Yahel ably complements the sax solo, then takes a slick turn of his own as Ben maintains a solid, cymbal-laden groove.
Frank switches to clarinet for Fats Waller's "The Jitterbug Waltz." His swinging solo after the opening theme is exploratory and deft. Yahel shadows the clarinet during the statement of the theme, percolates beneath Frank's solo, then takes his own sparkling turn at the helm before they take the song out. The song is a patient brew, building to a quiet intensity.
After Ben leads in on the drums, Frank and Yahel share some spirited byplay on the head of Horace Silver's burner "Quicksilver," racing along like neck-and-neck sprinters. Frank and Yahel take solos, then trade fours before restating the theme. The intro to "All Of You" is slow almost to the point of being melancholy, but it's quickly upgraded to its standard mid-tempo pace. The drummer begins with brushes but then switches to sticks as the groove expands, deepens and picks up. On the ballad "My Foolish Heart" the interplay among the trio is pitch-perfect.
Standouts on the disc include the fine arrangement of "Star Eyes," a song made popular by Charlie Parker; and "Donna Lee," written by Miles Davis and recorded by Bird when Miles was part of his band. Yahel lays out on this tune while the Perowskys - with pére on the clarinet - happily race through it. The disc ends with another father-son duet on another Davis composition, "Four," where Frank goes back to tenor sax.
Frank Perowsky plays both the tenor sax and clarinet with great fluency and confidence, sometimes approaching songs from unexpected angles and perspectives. Ben Perowsky is solid on drums, and Yahel brings out all of the colors in the organ, turning his left hand into a fourth member of the band by providing a consistent bass line. Bop On Pop is a well-executed tribute to the musicians who laid the cornerstones of the foundation of jazz today.
This review originally appeared in All About Jazz-New York June 2003.
Track Listing: 1. Vierd Blues 5:26 2. The Jitterbug Waltz 6:56 3. Quicksilver 5:44 4. All of You 6:45 5. My Foolish Heart 5:26 6. Star Eyes 6:44 7. Confirmation 4:59 8. Donna Lee 3:38 9. Four 4:52
Personnel: Ben Perowsky: drums; Frank Pewsky: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Sam Yahel: organ .
Record Label: JazzKey Music