Tuesday, April 19, 2011

KICKIN' IT OLD SCHOOL

I'm finally caught up. Pepper, I’ve been writing album reviews for the past month or so. Some jazz labels--Dark Key Music, Jazz Legacy Productions and Mack Avenue Records--sent me some choice new releases. The albums were pretty good. Now that my desk is clear, I get to take a break before the mail carrier drops off another stack of new albums. Pepper, I wanted to hear some old school jazz. The kind jazz musicians of your generation made, so I played your album “Encounter!”. One of your best dates in my book. Do you recall making it? Prestige put it out in 1964. 

Your Detroit running buddies Ron Carter, Tommy Flanagan, and Elvin Jones played on "Encounter!". What a star-studded rhythm section that was. The band bounce from cookers to ballads. And you made the occasion  extra special by sharing the front line with fellow saxophonist Zoot Sims. He gave "Encounter!" that West Coast cool flavor. A tenor and baritone on the front line what a novel concept.

"Encounter!" opened with “Inanout”. You and Sims started blowing like mad right away, trading measures like penny stocks, giving the impression “Encounter!” would be a saxophone battle album. Like "Setting the Pace" with Dexter Gordon and Booker Ervin, and the all out blowing sessions Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons had. But you threw the listeners a curves by following up “Inanout” with the ballad “Star-Crossed Lovers”. You shifted the emphasis from you and Sims to Flanagan. The pianist had a sweet way of playing ballads that would’ve made a mountain lion blush.

You’re also the consummate balladeer, down shifting the baritone to the low register. Doing that made your horn mimic a human voice. I thought the horn would float from your hands on “Serenity" and “I’ve Just Seen Her”. You didn’t neglect your rhythm section either.

Carter, Flanagan, and Jones got a piece of the action. Carter kept time more accurately than a pawnshop Rolex. Jones has the final say on "Verdandi," the album's last song. Jones' sounded was so multi-layered I was convinced Jones was playing multiple solos simultaneously. Pepper, I have to stop now. The mail carrier just pulled up.
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