Down and dirty cutting contests are nothing new in Jazz and their allure seems to transcend any idiomatic boundaries in the music. There’s a long lineage to draw on from the spirited jousts of Lester Young and Herschel Evans in the early incarnations of Basie’s Orchestra to Long Tall Dex and Wardell Gray slugging it out on the seminal bop brawl “The Chase.” Even a glance at the specs on this session should reveal it for what it is- a blowing session built on the prodigious talents of two Chicago-based titans of the tenor saxophone. An examination of the fare for the date gives further conspicuous clues. Five standards, with three clocking in at over fifteen minutes- a strong indication that these guys came to blow the roof off the rafters! Mirroring the succinct title of the disc Freeman and Peterson dispense with pleasantries, throw their cash into the collective pot, take what their dealt and come up with a full house.
The opening up-tempo reading of “Mr. P.C.” gets things off to a galloping start with a unison theme statement before Vonski launches into a lengthy lyrical exposition on the familiar melody. Peterson vaults into the fray next close on his friend’s heels. His more overtly plangent and muscular tone is clearly discernible from Vonski’s bent, high-register athletics. He submits a scorching solo before the rhythm section gets in on the act with woolly turns from Pickens and Shy. “Four” and “Lover Man” are given significantly less space to evolve, but the results on both are just as engaging as those found on the lengthier numbers. “Lover Man” is invested with a modal preface that segues smoothly into the lusty exchanges of its later sections. The disc’s centerpiece, at least in terms of temporal size is the quartet’s mammoth rendition of “A Night In Tunisia” (is there a jazz standard covered more frequently?). The expansive length of the tune precludes some coherence and there are points where the cohesion between front-line and rhythm section falters a bit. But the marvelously inventive solos of both hornmen (Peterson first, followed closely by Vonski) make these minor imbroglios of little concern. A blistering take on “Lover” signals the session’s close with Vonski blowing a ferocious ‘inside/outside’ solo punctuated by upper register wails.
Over the years Vonski has taken a lot of heat for his resolute insistence on sticking to his signature, and some say outrageous, sound on saxophone. In the company of someone like Peterson who is capable of applying a prodding fire under his feet, Vonski resources a level of ingenuity that should silence many of these naysayers, if there are still any out there. Anyone with a sweet tooth for zestfully deployed tenor prowess needs to check this disc out at his or her earliest opportunity. If the material here whets your appetite and leaves you wanting more word on the street is that a date featuring Vonski with Frank Catalano, another solid tenor presence on the Delmark roster, is currently in the works.
Track Listing: Mr. P.C./ Four/ Loverman/ A Night In Tunisia/ Lover.
Personnel: Von Freeman- tenor saxophone; Ed Petersen- tenor saxophone; Willie Pickens- piano; Brian Sandstrom- bass; Robert Shy- drums.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.