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Ricky Ford: The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene


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Ricky Ford: The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene
Is there a more underrated player than Ricky Ford? On any horn?

Perhaps the fact that he took over Paul Gonsalves' chair in the Mercer Ellington orchestra when he was still a kid led people to think he had yet to prove himself. There was a brief stint with Charles Mingus. And there was his association with Lionel Hampton as a featured soloist. Ford showed up in a number of bands, most notably with Tom Harrell in Play of Light (Palo Alto, 1982), where the force of his playing was remarkable, if not majestic. He spent time stateside in the late 1980s as a resident artist at Brandeis University, and made a series of now hard-to-find recordings with a galaxy of heavy players on Muse Records. There was American-African Blues (Candid, 1993), an impressive recording by any standard. And then he went to Europe, where he apparently still resides.

Ford has been around for fifty years, basically recapitulating the history of jazz tenor sax in his playing, if you have been listening. Somehow, a colleague remarked, "he got lost in the mix." What an injustice. Whether or not this recording is intended to reintroduce Ford to an American audience is not obvious, but if it does, that will be just fine. At some point, perhaps it may come on "Paul's Scene," a person is liable to think, "Man, can this guy blow or what?" Well, yes, he can. Is this recording intent on reintroducing Ricky Ford to a new generation of listeners? It is not clear. Nevertheless, he's back, although Ford would probably say "I never left" and no matter which great he channels, Ford always finds "I sound like myself." Benny Golson call this, "a wonderful CD." He is not exaggerating.

Six of the tunes on The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford are originals, and the arrangements are all his. Starting with "Ricky's Bossa," which is just that: a tasteful, relaxed, melodious reprise of the genre, "Desafinado" among others. Ford tears into "Fer," which might well stand for "ferocious," and harnesses an outstanding rhythm section of Mark Soskin (piano); Jerome Harris (bass guitar); and Barry Altschul (drums). Oh, yeah, Ford quotes "Buzzy," in case Dexter Gordon and Red Rodney don't ring a bell. "The Wonder," at 6:50, is the longest track on the recording. It is full on Paul Gonsalves and a lot more, George Coleman included. Soskin's jagged piano comping gives Ford the harmonic freedom to play what he wants. "That Red Clay" is a kind of calypso which evokes Sonny Rollins without aping him. "The Essence of You" sounds as if it builds on "I Remember Clifford," whether it does or not, and is another "like Sonny" moment. "The Stockholm Stomp" is, well, vivace. "Angel Face" changes up completely. Is it a contrafact on "Lover Man?" If it is not, it should be. But with a lot of Coleman Hawkins bleeding through.

If you ever wondered what happened to Ricky Ford, "great player," wonder no longer. And if you have been tuned in all along, lucky you. You should have been telling the rest of us to pay attention. Better late than never.

Track Listing

Ricky's Bossa; Fer; The Wonder; That Red Clay; The Essence ofYou; The Stockholm Stomp; Angel Face; Paris Fringe; I Can't Wait to See You; Paul's Scene; Frustration; Mabulala.


Ricky Ford
saxophone, tenor
Jerome Harris
guitar, electric

Album information

Title: The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Whaling City Sound



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