One can be forgiven for not knowing a saxhorn from a saxophone, or, for that matter, whether a particular horn is a member of a certain family. Yes, there are aficionados (not to mention serious players) who can quite accurately describe the histories of the instruments, their lineages, and their peculiarities or idiosyncracies. Yet for many, it is difficult to distinguish a cornet from a trumpet. With a clever choice of mouthpiece, an adept instrumentalist can render them basically indistinguishable to all but the most practiced ear.
There is also a history in jazz of artists being distinguished by their command of an unusual instrument. One thinks of Cy Touff
(bass trumpet), Gus Mancuso
(baritone horn), and even the occasional appearance of a peck horn Doug Mettome
, (but not often, thankfully). Whatever. You listen to music as music, no? Someone's facility on an unwieldy ax may be impressiveor their ability to extract quite a different sound from one instrument or anotherbut the novelty wears off. Sooner or later, a horn is a horn, and it is the music that matters.
Quite a few reviewers have fixed on Jim Self
as a tuba player, which he certainly is. And, yes, he can really get around the horn and play jazz, however remarkable one might find that. But the real point, frankly, is that he plays lovely music. Lush, lovely melodies, rich and evocative on his weapon of choice, and beautifully voiced with guitar, trumpet, trombone into a textured blend that is aesthetically pleasing. The fact that these tunes are mostly standards is undoubtedly intended to provide a reference point for many listeners who don't expect to hear "Dindi," "Up Jumped Spring," or "It Could Happen to You" done on a tuba in C or F instead of a more "conventional" horn. Small matter. Self is a terrific player, expressive, imaginative and most musical. That is what strikes the listener repeatedly. What a beautiful recording, and a perfect way to end another fraught day. Self has surrounded himself with other, equally exquisite players. Just listen to Ron Stout
(flugelhorn) on the Cy Coleman tune, "I Walk A Little Faster." For sound, feeling and control, it is difficult to think of anyone better. There are lots of athletes in the back row these days. It would be nice to have a few more musicians like Stout.
To get in the mood for
Hangin' Out, try listening to Gus Mancuso (baritone horn, among others) first. He could really play, and was surrounded by a galaxy of equally gifted musicians on his recordingsRichie Kamuca
, Joe Romano
, Vince Guaraldi
. Yes, a lot has happened to both the technologies of recording and playing a horn in sixty years, but Self and his confreres are the obvious choice for modern ears, even "traditionally" schooled ones.
Far better than "good job."
Hangin’ Out; Spain; Lydian Afternoon; Dindi; Sir Duke; Another Thing; Felicidade; Everything
Happens to Me; Up Jumped Spring; I Walk a Little Faster; Modal 1 Tease; Just the Way You
Are; It Could Happen to You.
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