Gene Ammons' Ballads (1950-'53)

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Jazz has a long history of tenor saxophone pairings. The list includes Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Eddie “Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin, and Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray. Such duos initially began as improvisational battles, which were popular in clubs and then on recordings. My favorite tenor duelists were Gene “Jug" Ammons and Sonny Stitt. Both started out recording in Billy Eckstine's orchestra in 1945 and reunited in smaller groups each of them led in 1950 when they recorded for Prestige. So it's hard for me to feature Sonny Stitt on his early ballads yesterday without turning to Jug's early slow-movers today.

Here are 8 ballads by Gene Ammons, with a bonus at the end:

Here's Gene Ammons playing Once in a While in February 1948, with Christine Chatman (p), Leo Blevins (g), Lowell Pointer (b) and Ike Day (d)...



Here's Ammons playing Back in Your Own Backyard in July 1950, with Bill Massey (tp), Matthew Gee (tb), Sonny Stitt (bar), Duke Jordan (p), Eugene Wright (b) and Wes Landers (d)...



Here's Ammons playing Blue and Sentimental in January 1951, with Junior Mance (p), Eugene Wright (b) and Teddy Stewart (d)...



Here's Ammons playing (It Will Have To Do) Until The Real Thing Comes Along in November 1951, with Bill Massey (tp), Elisha “Bartley" Dabney (tb), Sonny Stitt (ts,bar), Clarence “Sleepy" Anderson (p), Ernie Shepard (b) and Teddy Stewart (d)...



Here's Ammons playing Because of Rain from the same session...



Here's Ammons playing Street of Dreams in November 1952, with John Houston (p), unknown (g), Ben Stuberville (b) and George Brown (d)...



Here's Ammons playing Trav'lin' Light from the same session...



And here's Ammons playing Stairway to the Stars in June 1953, with Johnny Coles (tp), Lino Murray (tb), McKinley Easton (bar), John Houston (p), unknown (g), Ben Stuberville (b) and George Brown (d)...



Bonus: Here's Ammons playing the glamorous Easy Glide from April 1950, with Bill Massey (tp), Bennie Green (tb), Sonny Stitt (bar), Duke Jordan (p), Tommy Potter (b), Art Blakey (d) and Jimmy Mundy (arr)...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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