A Tale of Two Tenors.
I have been trying to determine what these two releases have in common. Damn little I finally decided... with the exception that they are both tenor-led dates. I have been listening to them together and decided to write about them together. I figured that the juxtaposition of the two would elicit some interesting thoughts, kind of like Charles Ives pitting two brass bands against one another playing different songs.
Harry Allen and David Murray are vastly different talents. Allen is a chronicler of an earlier saxophone style, a practitioner of such dense talent he sounds as if he invented tenor saxophone performance instead of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. Allen is the Frank Sinatra of the tenor saxophone: a master interpreter of standards and content to be so. David Murray, on the other hand, is an omnivorous trailblazer, redefining the big band, solo performance, and tenor-organ combo on his 70 plus releases. What is the moral of this story so far? It is that there is plenty of room under the jazz tent for everyone, and the art of jazz is the better for it.
Stan, Al, and Zoot. After several listens, I was able to identify what I liked the most about The King. It is the total absence of John Coltrane (no offense to that legacy). This disc (my first encounter with Allen) struck me as a tenor talent like, but greater than, that of Scott Hamilton's. The King, subtitled as "Jazz at the Amerika Haus HamburgVolume 1" (I look forward to subsequent volumes) is a live collection of standards that include very fresh, straight performances of "But Beautiful," "Honeysuckle Rose," and "Limehouse Blues." His tone is nothing short of beautiful. A totally original blending of Stan Getz, Al Cohn, and Zoot Sims with a smattering of Ben Webster and Paul Gonsalves, Allen's tone is brisk and clean. Allen's support in pianist John Bunch, bassist Dennis Irwin, and drummer Duffy Jackson is crisp and practiced. I can only hope that providence smiles on me and sees that more music like this is sent to me. Superb, just plain superb.
Go West Young Man. David Murray has been living in Europe, making his way to the states to appear and record. He has recorded every setting: big band to solo saxophone. He is equally adept on tenor and bass clarinet. Here, he assembles a little big band and blows through some absolute genius arrangements of songs by and associated with John Coltrane. Not content to imitate, Murray takes these Coltrane canvases and reframe them in a larger than quartet setting with superb results. The disc is contained between two monumental bookends: the swirling dynamo of "Giant Steps& quot; and the primal spirituality of "Acknowledgement" from A Love Supreme. He blows with dangerous abandon, always hitting his mark while sounding that he at any moment will lose control. Kudos to 'bone player Craig Harris for a super recital. Within lies the spirit of John Coltrane, sensibly interpreted by David Murray.
These two discs sum up the state of the tenor in the year 2000. I can only hope that both of these exceptional artists continue their diverging pilgrimages, providing we listens with delights for years to come.
Track Listing ( The King< /I>):Deed I Do; Close Your Eyes; But Beautiful; The King; Did You Call Here Today; Honeysuckle Rose; This Time The Dream's On Me; My Heat Stood Still; Everyday I Have The Blues; Limehouse Blues. (Total Time: 68:53)
Personnel ( The King ):Harry Allen: Tenor Saxophone; John Bunch: Piano; Dennis Irwin: Bass; Duffy Jackson: Drums.
Track Listing (< I>Octet Plays Trane ):Giant Steps; Naima; The Crossing; India; Lazy Bird; A Love Supreme Part 1. (Total Time: 68:53)
Personnel ( Octet Plays Trane ):David Murray: Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet; Craig Harris: Trombone; D.D. Jackson: Piano; Ravi Best: Trumpet; Rasul Siddik: Trumpet; James Spaulding: Alto Saxophone, Flute; Mark Johnson: Drums; Jaribu Shahid: Bass.