Jake Fryer / Bud Shank: In Good Company (2011)
Young British composer/alto saxophonist Jake Fryer joins forces with veteran bopper Bud Shank and his favorite West Coast rhythm section, to form the Jake Fryer / Bud Shank Quintet for In Good Company. It's a lively and engaging album, a mix of standards and Fryer originals that brings the two alto saxophonists together for a recording date full of spontaneity, mutual respect and enjoyment. Sadly, it also proved to be the 82 year-old Shank's valedictory recording, as he was not in good health and died on April 2nd 2009, the day after the session took place.
In his liner notes, Fryer refers to In Good Company as "a first takes album." This approach ensures that the recording has the excitement and fun of a late night jam session. Sure, there are occasional imperfections and minor errors, but their appearances are few and do nothing to disrupt the Quintet's swagger and swing. Shank may not be at the height of his powers, but he can still blow.
The two saxophonists have distinct but complementary tones: Shanks has the tighter, "alto-going-on-soprano" sound; Fryer the mellower, "alto-going-on-tenor" sound. The three rhythm section playersbassist Bob Magnusson, pianist Mike Wofford and drummer Joe LaBarberaare reliable, solid, and tight; but, above all, swinging.
The quintet opens with Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington's perennial favorite, "Caravan." After Magnusson's slinky introduction, Shank storms into his opening solo with verve, and Wofford and LaBarbera swiftly settle in behind him. Fryer's own tunes, six in all, carry on with this high energy bebop approach. "Bopping With Bud," written in tribute to the veteran player, gives the two altoists a chance to trade phrases and solos in friendly competition, while "Tip Top and Tickety Boo" races along merrily, with both Fryer and Shank delivering some fluid and complex lines. Fryer wrote "The Time Lord" expressly for LaBarbera, who repays the honor with inventive and driving percussion. The band eases down a little for Lerner and Lowe's "Almost Like Being In Love," its smoothly low key performance the most overtly romantic on the album.
Fryer, who also heads up the London Bebop Collective, achieved an ambition when Shank agreed to join him for this date. In Good Company gives little indication of Shank's problems. It is, by contrast, an affirmation of life: a joyous blast of a performance, a worthy epitaph for the veteran saxophonist and a strong musical statement from Fryer and the Quintet.
Track Listing: Caravan; Bopping With Bud; Agnieszka; Tip Top and Tickety Boo; Breaking Loose; The Time Lord; Almost Like Being In Love; In Good Company; Speak Low.
Personnel: Jake Fryer: alto saxophone; Bud Shank: alto saxophone; Mike Wofford: piano; Bob Magnussson: bass; Joe LaBarbera: drums.