Down and dirty cutting contests are nothing new in Jazz and their allure seems to transcend any idiomatic boundaries in the music. There’s a long lineage to draw on from the spirited jousts of Lester Young and Herschel Evans in the early incarnations of Basie’s Orchestra to Long Tall Dex and Wardell Gray slugging it out on the seminal bop brawl “The Chase.” Even a glance at the specs on this session should reveal it for what it is- a blowing session built on the prodigious talents of two Chicago-based titans of the tenor saxophone. An examination of the fare for the date gives further conspicuous clues. Five standards, with three clocking in at over fifteen minutes- a strong indication that these guys came to blow the roof off the rafters! Mirroring the succinct title of the disc Freeman and Peterson dispense with pleasantries, throw their cash into the collective pot, take what their dealt and come up with a full house.
The opening up-tempo reading of “Mr. P.C.” gets things off to a galloping start with a unison theme statement before Vonski launches into a lengthy lyrical exposition on the familiar melody. Peterson vaults into the fray next close on his friend’s heels. His more overtly plangent and muscular tone is clearly discernible from Vonski’s bent, high-register athletics. He submits a scorching solo before the rhythm section gets in on the act with woolly turns from Pickens and Shy. “Four” and “Lover Man” are given significantly less space to evolve, but the results on both are just as engaging as those found on the lengthier numbers. “Lover Man” is invested with a modal preface that segues smoothly into the lusty exchanges of its later sections. The disc’s centerpiece, at least in terms of temporal size is the quartet’s mammoth rendition of “A Night In Tunisia” (is there a jazz standard covered more frequently?). The expansive length of the tune precludes some coherence and there are points where the cohesion between front-line and rhythm section falters a bit. But the marvelously inventive solos of both hornmen (Peterson first, followed closely by Vonski) make these minor imbroglios of little concern. A blistering take on “Lover” signals the session’s close with Vonski blowing a ferocious ‘inside/outside’ solo punctuated by upper register wails.
Over the years Vonski has taken a lot of heat for his resolute insistence on sticking to his signature, and some say outrageous, sound on saxophone. In the company of someone like Peterson who is capable of applying a prodding fire under his feet, Vonski resources a level of ingenuity that should silence many of these naysayers, if there are still any out there. Anyone with a sweet tooth for zestfully deployed tenor prowess needs to check this disc out at his or her earliest opportunity. If the material here whets your appetite and leaves you wanting more word on the street is that a date featuring Vonski with Frank Catalano, another solid tenor presence on the Delmark roster, is currently in the works.
Track Listing: Mr. P.C./ Four/ Loverman/ A Night In Tunisia/ Lover.
Personnel: Von Freeman- tenor saxophone; Ed Petersen- tenor saxophone; Willie Pickens- piano; Brian Sandstrom- bass; Robert Shy- drums.
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds. I love how jazz can involve musicians who may have never met each other can coming together and making incredible music by referring to the Great American Songbook and musicians who have been playing together for years, who have a deep connection and who explore and create original music that is at the cutting edge of musical innovation in every sense. Performing jazz music requires a virtuosity and technique that only strict discipline can teach as well as a spontaneity and playfulness that reflects the simple folk roots of the music.
I was first exposed to jazz as a student in college. Only knowing I wanted to play guitar, I enrolled in an applied music program that focused on Jazz rhythm section playing. The subsequent journey that I have been on since the time that I enrolled in that class has helped me grow not only as a musician but more so as a person.