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Ike Quebec: Ike Quebec: Blue & Sentimental - 1962

Marc Davis By

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The combo of Ike Quebec on sax and Grant Green on guitar is sweetness personified.
Everyone loves a good comeback—especially if the second act is better than the first. Think of Tina Turner, Marlon Brando and George Foreman.

Or tenor saxman Ike Quebec.

Quebec isn't exactly a household name, but his seven Blue Note records are uniformly terrific, and Blue & Sentimental is among the best ever produced by the label. That it came after Quebec had already achieved success (if not fame) among the big bands of the 1940s, and after a musical hiatus in the 1950s, makes it all the more wonderful.

In the liner notes, Quebec says Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Stan Getz are his favorite sax players, and that's hardly surprising. It's not just that Quebec was a product of the swing era that also produced Hawkins and Webster, it's his absolute mastery of the ballad.

I'm not generally a ballad fan—I usually prefer fast and furious bop—but Blue & Sentimental is the kind of album that makes me melt. The title song, which opens the album, is among my very favorite ballads ever. It's about the slowest song you'll ever hear, which is not exactly a recommendation, but Quebec is all breathy and emotional. It's enough to make a grown man swoon. It's also the perfect showcase for guitarist Grant Green, playing his usual, tasteful single-note bluesy melodies. The Quebec-Green combo is sweetness personified.

And there are more ballads to savor, every one of them warm and sentimental. "Don't Take Your Love From Me" is soft and casual, with more breathy beautifulness from Quebec. "Blues for Charlie" is Green's tribute to Charlie Christian, and it's magnificent. "Count Every Star" is a dreamy vehicle primarily for Green and his gorgeous guitar.

Blue & Sentimental also features a handful of up-tempo numbers, including two very nice Quebec originals, "Minor Impulse" and "Like," and the standards "That Old Black Magic" and "It's All Right With Me." They swing like crazy, but they're not why I return to this album. For me and lots of Quebec fans, the highlights of Blue & Sentimental are, well, the tunes that are blue and sentimental.

I'm sure there are a bunch of perfectly good swing numbers from the '40s that feature Ike Quebec, but the 1960s comeback is where he really shined. It's a shame he died of cancer at age 44 in 1963.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Availability: Easy to find

Cost: $13 for a new CD, but $9 for the MP3 files and $6 used

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