154

Phil Urso/Carl Saunders: Salute to Chet Baker

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Phil Urso/Carl Saunders: Salute to Chet Baker Phil Urso won’t remember this, but many years ago—nearly half a century, in fact—I heard him playing in a small club in Washington, DC, and was so impressed that I approached him after the gig and said he sounded to me like Zoot Sims. I made his day then, and now I’d like to give it another try. Urso and trumpeter Carl Saunders have joined forces to sculpt this warmhearted tribute to the incomparable but self-impaled Chet Baker, and although Phil no longer sounds like Zoot, and Carl sounds nothing at all like Chet, they have cooked up one of the most appetizing albums of the year, one that also marks a spectacular debut for Graham Carter’s new Jazzed Media label.

Unlike others who were obliged to appreciate Baker’s artistry from afar, Urso co-led the Chet Baker/Phil Urso Quintet in 1955-56, and he was a natural choice to assume a leading role in this magical salute. Saunders—who plays as many notes in thirty seconds as Chet was likely to play in thirty minutes—seemed a less likely partner, but as it turns out, Carl honed his writing and playing skills as a young man by transcribing a number of Baker’s charts (including some by the Baker/Urso Quintet), was a long-time admirer of both men and eager to round out the group whose splendid rhythm section is comprised of blue-chip musicians from the Denver area, where Urso has lived for many years.

Although Urso, who’s remarkably bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in his seventy-eighth year, hadn’t recorded since 1986, there are few signs of rustiness as he quickly asserts himself on Al Haig’s boppish “Jumpin’ Off a Clef,” on which he trades unerring four- and two-bar licks with the mercurial Saunders. Urso’s tone and delivery have moved closer to Hank Mobley‘s, which isn’t a bad place to go, and he’s a masterful foil for Saunders whose dexterity and seemingly endless flow of eloquent phrases is nothing short of awesome. And to his further credit, Carl chooses not to sing on Chet‘s signature tune, “My Funny Valentine.”

Besides the songs already mentioned, the quintet enlivens two of Urso’s sparkling compositions (“Halema,” written for Chet’s then-wife, and “Way to Go”), two more by Hal Galper (“Mister B,” “This Is the Thing”), Jimmy Heath’s “For Minors Only,” Richard Carpenter’s “Baby Breeze,” Frank Signorelli/Miff Mole’s “Worryin’ the Life Out of Me” and Mobley’s descriptive “Funk in Deep Freeze” before closing, quite appropriately, with the gentle “Line for Lyons,” written by Baker’s mentor and alter ego, Gerry Mulligan. Each of the songs was recorded by Baker during his lengthy but spasmodic career.

For musicians who hadn’t even met before, let alone played together, Urso and Saunders bond immediately, creating a partnership that seems more long-lived than newly formed, as does their worry-free alliance with pianist Keith Waters, bassist Colin Grieg and drummer Paul Romaine. A superlative album by any measure. No doubt Chet would have been thrilled.


Track Listing: Jumpin

Personnel: Phil Urso, tenor sax; Carl Saunders, trumpet; Keith Waters, piano; Colin Grieg, bass; Paul Romaine, drums.

Title: Salute to Chet Baker | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Jazzed Media


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Screen Sounds CD/LP/Track Review Screen Sounds
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 20, 2017
Read The Bug CD/LP/Track Review The Bug
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Sing Me Some Cry CD/LP/Track Review Sing Me Some Cry
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Masters In Bordeaux CD/LP/Track Review Masters In Bordeaux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 19, 2017
Read On Parade In Parede CD/LP/Track Review On Parade In Parede
by John Sharpe
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Roots Of Unity" CD/LP/Track Review Roots Of Unity
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "Garden(s)" CD/LP/Track Review Garden(s)
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 14, 2017
Read "Journey To The Mountain Of Forever" CD/LP/Track Review Journey To The Mountain Of Forever
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: June 17, 2017
Read "Serenity Knolls" CD/LP/Track Review Serenity Knolls
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 14, 2017
Read "Illegal Crowns" CD/LP/Track Review Illegal Crowns
by John Sharpe
Published: December 10, 2016
Read "Dance of Time" CD/LP/Track Review Dance of Time
by Jeff Winbush
Published: May 26, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.