Sunday, December 16, 2007

THE COOLEST

Have a seat Frank. Welcome to my blog. I’ve wanted to chat with you every since I listened to “Cool, Calm and Collected, the album you recorded in Chicago 47 years ago. Before I question you about the music on that recording, let me take your coat. Make yourself comfortable. Let me get those Sonny Criss albums out of the way. I was listening to them last night. You guys sound so much alike. We can rap about that later.

In July, a dear friend introduced me to your music. We were browsing through the jazz bins at Street Corner Records on 13 Mile and Southfield Road. I found an album you made with MJT+3. The band looked prim and dignified in those black business suits. I asked my friend about the MJT+3 because the cover photo reminded me of the dapper Modern Jazz Quartet.
“Have you every heard this group?”

“Yeah, they were a solid band. They made a handful of recording, but they only stayed together for a year, from 1959-1960.”

“They look like the MJQ.”

“The members are from Memphis”

“Is the album blues based?”

“No. But Frank Strozier, the alto player, plays the ballads and the blues so well he could make a motivational speaker sad.”

“Which one is Strozier?”

“He’s the white guy to the right of pianist Harold Mabern.”

“Strozier looks like a hair stylist. Is this album worth having?

“Yes. And you should get Strozier’s Cool, Calm and Collected. The ballads and blues on that date will blow you away.”

Frank, I want to ask you about those ballad and blues. Where did you learn to play with such raw emotion? You have a lot of soul, man. Before I listened to the album, I googled you. After reading several articles about you, I had more of an understanding of why you had so much soul.
You grew up in Memphis. You hung around musicians such as pianists Phineas Newborn Jr. trumpeter Booker Little, and saxophonist George Coleman. Charlie Parker and Lee Konitz influenced you. Frank, honestly, I think your style and tone is more akin to alto saxophonist Sonny Criss, another jazz musician from Memphis.

Like Criss your forte’ is playing ballads. Am I the first person to compare you to Criss? Criss made love to the ballads he played on albums such as “Saturday Morning” and “Out of Nowhere”. Frank, you treat ballads with the same tenderness and attention to detail. You and Criss should have made a record together.
I also like your versatility. Your work as a sideman is equally impressive. On drummer Roy Haynes’ album for Prestige Records “Cymbalism” your flute playing was smooth.
You had an endless supply of tricks up your sleeve on Booker Ervin’s album “Exultation”. You kept pace with the tenor saxophonist as he sped through the chord changes on “Mooche Mooche”.

Frank, before you leave will you listen to “Cloudy and Cool,” the first selection on “Cool, Calm, and Collected,” with me? That song gives my heart goose bumps. I love the way you dimmed the light on the tempo and cuddled the melody.

“Cool, Calm, and Collected summarizes perfectly your style.

Frank, you’re probably tired of me gushing about how great your playing is. I invited you to my blog because I wanted to pick you brain, and tell you I think you’re the coolest alto sax player I’ve ever listened to.
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