If I Had a Saxophone: Sonny Fortune, Al Foster, James Moody & Hank Jones, Lee Konitz, and Bob Mover
Saxophones are ubiquitous in jazz music. That being so, releases spotlighting the instrument each year are legion. Here are five of the finer ones.
You and the Night and the Music
18th & Vine Records
Can the ancient warhorse "Sweet Georgia Brown" still be relevant as a jazz instrumental vehicle? Alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune answers this question with commanding authority on You and the Night and the Music, a quartet outing he shares with pianist George Cables, bassist Chip Jackson, and drummer Steve Johns. Just as Anita O'Day did with the 1925 Pinkard/Casey tune in 1958 at Newport, Fortune takes the tune and detonates it at a nuclear tempo showing why trumpeter Miles Davis was happy to have him in his band in the early 1970s.
This recital has Fortune in a standard quartet anchored by the exquisite Cables. Fortune populates the album with noted standards given his own personal and unique treatment. Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" is performed on flute to great effect. But it is Fortune's dry, reedy alto that steals the show. "You The Night And The Music" and "Charade" are given full throated treatment by the company. Like John Coltrane before him, it is hard to say that Fortune's tone is "pretty." It is immediately identifiable, and by the uniqueness, essential. Fortune may be more effective on up tempo tunes, but cannot be counted out on slower ballads.
Fortune spins Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop" in such a way that the frenetic melody/harmony is brought into crystalline focus. Bebop (as a genre) slowed down slightly may no longer be bebop, but it is nevertheless educational. You and the Night and the Music is a nice jazz history according to Sonny Fortune. The saxophonist's chops remain impressive, and his choice in sidemen impeccable. This is a solid outing by a solid veteran.
Visit Sonny Fortune on the Web.
Al Foster Quartet
Love, Peace, and Jazz
Jazz Eyes Records
Hold on. Al Foster is a drummer, not a saxophonist. So why is he here? Well, because of his reedsman Eli DeGibri and the choice of Wayne Shorter's "ESP" for this set. Foster was a Miles Davis alum during that trend setter's early electric period. Here, however, Foster is in acoustic climes, though they sound more like middle period Coltrane than Davis' great quintets.
Recorded at New York City's Village Vanguard April 17-18, 2007, Love, Peace, and Jazz plays like a modern jazz recital post Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) with the exception of the inestimable Blue Mitchell's "Fungii Mama," that trumpeter's answer to Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas." Eli DeGibri plays with a thin powerful tone that never overwhelms the band. His Treatment of Shorter's "ESP" is insightful as is his approach to Bill Evans' "Blue in Green" (incorrectly credited to Davis on the CD sleeve).
Foster allows his band to play unencumbered by his leadership. He is a generous band leader with more than enough chops to overpower his band mates. But he avoids this excess, ensuring that pianist Kevin Hays has his share of solo space, as well as bassist Douglas Weiss. The drummer thumps on "Fungii Mama," the rocking conclusion to this fine concert disc.
Visit Al Foster on the Web.
The James Moody and Hank Jones Quartet
Are there any other two jazz musicians whose presence on a recording gives it more urbanity and class than pianist Hank Jones and reed player James Moody? Hell, either one of them alone could rescue the most ill-conceived or misguided recording date. These are two elder statesmen (Jones born in 1918 and Moody born in 1925), among the last of the giants to be credited with making modern jazz modern jazz.
That said, this fortuitous meeting honors two other modern jazz giants, the late pianist/composer Tadd Dameron and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Anointed the "romanticist" of bebop by no less an authority than tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, Dameron was responsible for such jazz standards as "Our Delight," "Lady Bird," "Good Bait," and "Soul Trane," all of which are represented on Our Delight, Moody and Jones' first recording together. Dameron's music is elastic. It is pliable in such a way inviting different interpretations.
Jones and Moody dispatch the latter's former employer with loose, warm readings of "Birk's Works," "Con Alma," and "Woody 'N You." However, the centerpiece of the collection is "Body and Soul." Tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins' 1939 signature piece, the direct jazz descendant for Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues," Jones and Moody show why and how this piece of music is so important to jazz, just as they themselves are.
Lee Konitz and Minsarah