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Jerry Weldon: Those Were the Days

C. Michael Bailey By

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It's no longer certain what music cold be classified as "mainstream" jazz. One can argue that the genre (and all others, for that matter) have atomized to the point of each performance being considered a genre in itself (a desirable outcome to the music anarchists among us). That said, some type of classification remains useful in describing music, if for no other reason than to let a listener know that "this sounds a great deal like that." Which brings us to tenor saxophonist Jerry Weldon. Weldon presently serves featured soloist in Harry Connick, Jr.'s long serving big band, who presently provide tafelmusik for Connick's Harry weekday talk show on ABC. The present Those Were the Days is Weldon's debut on Cory Weeds' Cellar Live label. The saxophonist has released seven previous recordings.

The touchstone of Those Were the Days is economy. Everything about this recording smacks of a scrupulous efficiency borne of an extended tenure in a big band like Connick's. This begins with his judicious use of an organ trio format augmented with a percussionist not unlike that employed in the 1950s and '60s Blue Note organ blowing dates. Organist Kyle Koehler is a conservative sort, favoring understated organ stop positions and thoughtful solo excursions. His tone reveals the best of a sepia-tinged style that could have been heard introducing The Edge of Night. Koehler's contribution to this date cannot be understated and is splendidly emotive and orchestral. He is most present introducing the title cut, which closes the recording, framing Weldon's muscular and exacting tenor tone with a soft glow, propelled by the gentle loping rhythm of drummer Colby Inzer.

Weldon favors modern ballads like the full-throated "Strangers in the Night" and the Bacharach/David "Walk on By" played samba style in a breezy and laconic mode. Weldon's own "Sunny V," retaining a bit of samba itself, is bright and inventive. The saxophonist and organist reach a precise critical mass playing Jimmy Smith's "The Sermon," the only blowing blues on the set. Everything comes into relief focus on this tune with all instruments well synced and calibrated. This is an excellent penultimate piece to introduce the closing "Those Were the Days." This could definitely be called "mainstream" jazz, that brand of jazz immediately recognizable, durable and expressive, a joy to behold and listen to.

Track Listing: Love Won’t Let Me Wait; Strangers in the Night; Sunny V; Where is the Love; Rosetta; Walk on By; This is Always; The Sermon; Those Were the Days.

Personnel: Jerry Weldon: tenor saxophone; Kyle Koehler: Hammond B3 Organ; Colby Inzer: drums; Daniel Sadownick: percussion.

Title: Those Were the Days | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Cellar Live

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