On April 2, 2009 the world lost another giant of jazz when alto saxophonist great Bud Shank
died peacefully in his Tucson, Arizona home. But the master chose not to pass away with a whimper but, rather, with a bang, blowing his last notes the day before at Studio West in San Diego. Shank was one of Jake Fryer's greatest influences on the alto saxophone. Fryer, a British composer and alto saxophonist, had dreamed of pairing up with Shank for a magical recording, leading to In Good Company
. The two alto saxophonists, along with Shank's west coast rhythm section of pianist Mike Wofford
, bassist Bob Magnusson
and drummer Joe LaBarbera
, combined for an electrifying session.
While Shank and his stellar rhythm section play a major part on this recordingShank takes the alto lead an all tracksit is Fryer who contributes most of the original material. Another important aspect of this album is the fact that all of the music was recorded on the first take, as if it were done at a live gig. With a Magnusson tease on the opening Juan Tizol
standard, "Caravan," the 82 year-old Shank, in obvious ill health, blows tight, high-pitched notes in contrast to Fryer, who follows with a more mellow-toned alto solo of his own. This seems to be the duo's template throughout the recording.
Fryer's "Bopping With Bud," penned as a tribute to the altoist, permits both saxophonists to trade salvos on a perky, bop-ish tune. Wofford steps up to the plate, setting up the players for some individual playing time on the spacious ballad "Agnieszka," while "Tip Top And Tickety Boo," as well as "Breaking Loose," have a racier, hard bop texture. La Barbera takes center stage on "The Time Lord," a piece specifically written for him, and the band tones down on a lovely rendition of the Lerner/Lowe classic, "Almost Like Being In Love." The title piece features all band mates claiming a portion of the number, in recognition of the obvious good company they found themselves in on this recording.
The session culminates with a creative, nine minutes-plus version of Kurt Weill's oft-performed "Speak Low," where both Shank and Fryer let it all hang out in what turns out to be Shank's last piece of recorded music. Fryer will, undoubtedly, go on to record more good music in the future, but probably no album will be as memorable to the altoist as the magnificent blowing session he shared with a legend on In Good Company
, an inspirational session of sizzling jazz.