Of all the musical instruments invented by Adolphe Sax in the mid-19th century, the baritone saxophone remains the least played. Harry Carney
persuaded Duke Ellington
to use the heavy, cumbersome instrument and it became a distinctive part of the band's sound. Others who have played the baritone saxophone include Cecil Payne
, Pepper Adams
, Serge Chaloff
andfor reasons that remain obscureLisa Simpson (perhaps she welcomed the challenge). Gerry Mulligan
and the Swede Lars Gullin
gave the instrument a distinctive, laid-back, specifically modern sound.
All of which brings us to Ronnie Cuber
, who uses the baritone sax as a forceful, hard bop instrument, creating a very distinctive sound all his own, as can be heard in this 2017 live recording from Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen. Risks were taken. Well into the set, Cuber asked organist Kjell Lauritsen, "Can you play Cherokee?" When Lauritsen replied, "Yeah, not too fast," Cuber responded, "It's gonna be fast."
Lauritsen says, "I don't know how anyone can play this instrumentthe baritone saxin that tempo. But with Ronnie everything falls into place. His playing sets every tempo, every mood right in place for all in the band."
Ray Noble's "Cherokee" is third up, following an original, "Tee's Bag," then Toots Thielemans' gentle ballad "Bluesette." Next comes "Just Friends" by John Klenner, from 1931 and Charlie Parker
's "Au Privave," penned two decades later. Despite the fact that it's one of Parker's more enduring compositions, no one has ever been able to figure out what it means. Lauritsen is particularly good on this one and there's some fine drumming by Andreas Svendsen.
Guitarist Krister Jonsson produces a good solo on Horace Silver's "Silver's Serenade" and an even better one on Lauritsen's "Jazz Girls," which otherwise sees Cuber at his straight ahead best. Then everything comes to a fine conclusion with "Four," by Miles Davis
(though authorship has been contested by saxophonist Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson and it also sounds remarkably like the Barton Lane showstopper "How About You?" from 1941).