88

Gary Smulyan: Smul's Paradise

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Gary Smulyan: Smul's Paradise While the tenor saxophone is no stranger to organ group gatherings, its big brother rarely comes to the party. It's hard to say whether a lack of interest amongst baritone saxophonists, insufficient opportunities for such combinations, or a paucity of players capable of pulling it off is responsible for this issue, but Gary Smulyan won't stand for it any longer.

Smulyan, best known for his work with the legendary Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, has never been one to shy away from an opportunity to explore new surroundings. While he initially put his alto away and took on the mantle of a baritone saxophonist for the opportunity to join Woody Herman's band in the late '70s, it proved to be a career-altering experience and he's been one of the busiest baritones in the business ever since. He has blended his instrumental voice into the fabric of big bands, piano-less trios and various other ensembles both big and small, but Smul's Paradise marks the first time that he fronts an organ group on record.

His capable comrades on this mission are some of his closest friends, who also happen to be the cream of the crop on the New York scene. While this marks the first time that Smulyan, guitarist Peter Bernstein, organist Mike LeDonne and drummer Kenny Washington - Drums have teamed up to form a quartet, shared experiences between some of these musicians on and off the bandstand make this a comfortable fit from the get-go. The entire album may have been recorded in one day, with no rehearsal time and minimal retakes, but the finished product never betrays these facts.

The eight tracks on the album hit on all of the stylistic touchstones to be expected in this setting. Balladry ("Aires"), bop-ish saxophone lines ("Smul's Paradise"), Brazilian-flavored fare ("Pistaccio"), swaggering, hard bop-based music ("Up In Betty's Room") and more come into play, as Smulyan explores the possibilities that live within this format. He also toys with preexisting material, as he re-imagines Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" as a waltz and creates a hybrid of "Seven Steps To Heaven" and "My Shining Hour" on the album-ending "Heavenly Hours." Along the way, Smulyan also pays tribute to a pair of oft-overlooked organists. Don Patterson gets his due with performances of two of his songs ("Up In Betty's Room" and "Aires") and an original written in his honor ("Blues For D.P."), while Rhoda Scott gets a nod with "Pistaccio."

Smul's Paradise features some first-rate music, while showing off another facet of Smulyan's musicianship and filling a musical void left open by many baritone saxophone bearers of the past and present. Smulyan and company succeed on all fronts here, making this a sequel-worthy session.


Track Listing: Sunny; Up In Betty's Room; Pistaccio; Smul's Paradise; Little Miss Half Steps; Aires; Blues For D.P.; Heavenly Hours.

Personnel: Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone; Mike LeDonne: Hammond B3 organ; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Kenny Washington: drums.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Capri Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Echoes Of Europe" CD/LP/Track Review Echoes Of Europe
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 26, 2017
Read "Instants Of Time" CD/LP/Track Review Instants Of Time
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 4, 2016
Read "Vitamina D" CD/LP/Track Review Vitamina D
by Budd Kopman
Published: December 28, 2016
Read "Vanheusenism: A Tribute To Jimmy Van Heusen" CD/LP/Track Review Vanheusenism: A Tribute To Jimmy Van Heusen
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 3, 2016
Read "Free for One" CD/LP/Track Review Free for One
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 31, 2016
Read "Forty" CD/LP/Track Review Forty
by James Nadal
Published: May 15, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!