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Jerry Weldon-Michael Karn Quintet: Head to Head

C. Andrew Hovan By

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There's something magical about the idea of dueling tenor saxophones that has kept it a popular commodity for many years now. Historically, the first memorable pairing was that of Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray. Then, we had Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, and let's not forget that incendiary duo of Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis! Now you can add a modern day equivalent in the likes of tenor men Jerry Weldon and Michael Karn. While certainly not yet household names, both players have established reputations and bring something fresh to the mainstream tradition. Karn, a student of Joe Lovano's, has worked with a number of New York mainstays including organist Charles Earland, while Weldon studied at Rutgers and has recently been heard in Jack McDuff's combo.

Like the best duos, Weldon and Karn share enough differences in sound and approach to provide the contrast needed for an engaging listen. The former has a beefy sound that has a swagger akin to players of the swing era, while the latter possesses that high-register cry that marks such modern players as Lovano and Michael Brecker. The rhythm section that rounds out the group is made up of first-call players. Bruce Barth is one of the few pianists of his generation with that uncanny ability to play just the right thing that will get everyone going, be it a mainstream gig or the avant-garde. And by now it should be known that bassist Peter Washington and drummer Billy Drummond are two of the greatest jazz musicians of this or any era in jazz.

The festivities get underway with Weldon's "Captain Morgan", a catchy number that recalls the up tempo romps of Lockjaw and Griffin. Karn's "Big 'D'" has hints of "Gingerbread Boy" with its stop-time passages and it serves as a perfect springboard to some inspired solos. Aside from one other original apiece from Karn and Weldon, the program is filled out with a choice selection of well- arranged standards, including a solo ballad performance from each tenor man. A brisk "Ko-Ko" wraps up an undeniably swinging and pleasurable date that, like a comfortable and well-worn shirt, will surely become an old favorite.


Track Listing: Captain Morgan, Sweet and Lovely, Who Can I Turn To, Big 'D', Late Last Summer, All the Way, Ow, Far East, If Ever I Would Leave You, Ko-Ko (66:42)

Personnel: Jerry Weldon- tenor saxophone, Michael Karn- tenor saxophone, Bruce Barth- piano, Peter Washington- bass, Billy Drummond- drums

Title: Head to Head | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Criss Cross


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