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Gary Smulyan with Dominic Chianese at Jazz At Kitano

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Gary Smulyan with Dominic Chianese Jazz At Kitano New York, NY April 5, 2014 Shortly before this show began, on a beautiful Saturday evening that truly marked the start of spring, a small crew of musicians and concert-goers, including this writer, were seated around the bar at Jazz At Kitano. The mood in the room was one of relaxation, with a low hum of conversation and laughter hanging in the air. The intelligently irrepressible Matt Wilson, who took to the drums once the show began, was playing ringleader for an impromptu game where participants ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gary Smulyan & Dominic Chianese: Bella Napoli

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Although Gary Smulyan is arguably the world's greatest baritone saxophonist, does that mean we all want to hear him blow on “Funiculi Funicula?" Is anyone especially eager to learn what world-class jazz players would do with such music, especially if your ancestral homeland isn't shaped like a boot? The quick answer might be no --- until you learn that Bella Napoli also features six vocals by the estimable Dominic Chianese, probably best known for playing devious Uncle Junior in the hit TV series, “The Sopranos." Although Signore Chianese is in his 80s, his tenor is still accurate and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gary Smulyan & Dominic Chianese: Bella Napoli

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Some concepts that seem far out, turn out to be right on. That is the case of the unlikely musical combination which comes together in the entertaining CD Bella Napoli--a salute to popular Italian song classics. Two greats pull this all together: acclaimed poll winner Gary Smulyan on baritone sax and actor-singer Dominic Chianese, well known as Uncle Junior on “The Sopranos," the Emmy-winning HBO TV series. And, as it turns out, Chianese is also a respected singer with a fine tenor voice. This is Chianese's second album For Smulyan, this is the jazz ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Gary Smulyan / Dominic Chianese: Bella Napoli

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Capri records seems to be committed to promoting meetings between actor-singers and jazz heavies. First came the pairing of Wilford Brimley and drummer Jeff Hamilton's trio in September of 2013. Now, right on the heels of that release comes a meeting between Dominic Chianese--best known as Uncle Junior on HBO's The Sopranos--and baritone saxophone ace Gary Smulyan. Together, they bridge the gap between Canzone Napoletana and jazz. Smulyan, the long-reigning king of the baritone saxophone, has a knack for birthing unique and/or interesting projects. The man, after all, put out the reeds-heavy Saxophone Mosaic (Criss Cross, 1993), ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Michael Benedict & Bopitude featuring Gary Smulyan: Five and One

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Diamond hard bop is alive and well and living in Michael Benedict & Bopitude's studio. The quintet's debut, Michael Benedict & Bopitude (Planet Arts, 2011), established the group as a premiere hard bop unit employing the classic trumpet-tenor quintet format used by Miles Davis, Art Blakey and various others. For this edition of Bopitude, drummer Benedict adds baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan, whose Smul's Paradise (Capri Records, 2012) made its own hard bop waves. The pairing is an opportune one. From old bop like Kenny Dorham's “An Oscar for Oscar" to new bop like Bobby Watson's “Quiet as ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gary Smulyan: Smul's Paradise

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While the tenor saxophone is no stranger to organ group gatherings, its big brother rarely comes to the party. It's hard to say whether a lack of interest amongst baritone saxophonists, insufficient opportunities for such combinations, or a paucity of players capable of pulling it off is responsible for this issue, but Gary Smulyan won't stand for it any longer. Smulyan, best known for his work with the legendary Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, has never been one to shy away from an opportunity to explore new surroundings. While he initially put his alto away and took on the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gary Smulyan: Smul's Paradise

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Recognized as one of the premiere baritone saxophonist in jazz today, Gary Smulyan has long had an affinity for the classic jazz organ trios and on Smul's Paradise he finally pays tribute to the format joining forces with Mike LeDonne, a master of the Hammond B3 organ. Not since saxophonist Ronnie Cuber performed with Lonnie Smith in the early '70s, has a baritone saxophonist led a typical organ trio. One major difference with this recording however; that the saxophonist fronts a quartet rather than a standard trio for this purpose, enlisting the help of guitarist Peter Bernstein and drumming sensation ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gary Smulyan: Smul's Paradise

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A baritone saxophonist leading an organ trio is certainly a rarity; the results of Gary Smulyan's Smul's Paradise is, in sixties hip, a “gas." This slang seems especially appropriate here because the CD pays tribute to an often-overlooked organist, Don Patterson, who came on the scene in that decade. Fronting a quartet behind his big bari, Smulyan contributes his tribute, “Blues for D.P.," in addition to including two tunes by Patterson in the eight-song set. Smulyan has said that this format was a favorite from his youth, and that he has wanted to make a recording with an ...

INTERVIEWS

Gary Smulyan: Low Man Aims High

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A baritone saxophonist who plays like Bird? And harvests more than a half-dozen Grammy awards in the process? That seeming contradiction characterizes the great successes of Gary Smulyan, one of today's most in-demand jazz performers, educators, and recording artists.

To be fair, Smulyan has his own voice, but he cites Charlie Parker as one of his earliest, most important, and enduring influences. And in these later years, Phil Woods also falls into that category. That one of today's most notable baritone sax players doesn't cite Gerry Mulligan or Harry Carney as his main influences might seem ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gary Smulyan: High Noon: The Jazz Soul of Frankie Laine

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This tribute album by baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan features his bebop-based nonet pulling inspiration from a 1956 album by pop singer Frankie Laine (1913-2007) and trumpeter Buck Clayton. As Laine's foray into jazz's '50s mainstream, Jazz Spectacular (Columbia) represented a piece of the singer's repertoire not as well-known as his pop music. It allowed him to interact with instrumentalists of the era who represented jazz authority and had little to do with themes such as “High Noon," “Mule Train," “Cool Water," “Rawhide," “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" and the more recent “Blazing Saddles" and “3:10 to Yuma." Laine did not ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gary Smulyan: More Treasures

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Perhaps if you asked jazz fans to name a progenitorial baritone saxophonist, they might name Harry Carney or Gerry Mulligan. Yet Gary Smulyan's lineage comes more from musicians like Cecil Payne, Leo Parker, Pepper Adams, Serge Chaloff and Nick Brignola--the few baritonists that dared to master the tricky, chromatic music known as bebop. Indeed, More Treasures is oozing bebop and Smulyan is fluent in the language. Some tracks are performed with sax, bass and drums only and though this is not stylistically coming from the same place as, say, the Sonny Rollins or Ornette Coleman trios, without a chordal instrument ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Gary Smulyan: Hidden Treasures

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Hidden Treasures smokes from the very first cut. Joined here by bassist Christian McBride and drummer Billy Drummond, Gary Smulyan makes a major statement with every new release. He eschewed smaltz for hard swing on Gary Smulyan with Strings. On Blues Suite he played fiery baritone sax with a brass section. He led a straight-ahead, take-no-prisoners quintet on The Real Deal. On Hidden Treasures his pared-down ensemble produces such a plethora of rhythmic and harmonic colors that a piano isn't missed. The gritty might of Smulyan's blowing is like a blast of coffee chased by McBride's brown ...



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