Waxing & musings. Who was the most influential jazz musician of the post-war period? That's certainly a piñata of a question, one that may not be answerable or even agreed upon. But let's take a shot. First, let's narrow the field to saxophonists, since after 1946, the reed instrument was the electric guitar of its day. This isn't to belittle the trumpeters. But the saxophone—all three of them—had the horn outgunned in terms of shaping jazz's direction at large. Then let's reduce the field further to the tenor saxophone. Charlie Parker obviously left a huge footprint, but his reach was capped by his painfully short lifespan and the alto saxophone was never again as dominant an instrument as when it was in his hands.
Each musician was a major force. Hawkins, with his gruff attack and commanding virtuosity transformed the tenor saxophone into a solo instrument, much in the way Louis Armstrong had done on trumpet years earlier. As for Lester Young, he changed the sound of jazz by developing a new, cooler approach that prized harmony and the vocalist's interpretive view. His sound was emulated by dozens of tenor saxophonists in the 1940s and early 1950s. But both Hawkins and Young's sounds had plateaued by the mid-1950s and were somewhat dated by then.
Which makes me wonder whether our title shouldn't really go to Dexter Gordon. Though Gordon was on the scene only sporadically in the 1950s due to drug problems, he pioneered a tenor saxophone sound in the late 1940s that was outside the Hawkins and Young models. Gordon's liquid and seemingly endless flow of improvisational ideas also had a major influence on Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane in the 1950s. Then in the 1960s, Gordon pioneered a new freewheeling sound for Blue Note and reinvented a moodier ballad style in the mid-1970s and 1980s. Though rarely cited as a creative inspiration, all post-1960 tenor saxophonists have flashes of Gordon in their intonation and stamina.here (with liner notes by his wife Maxine Gordon). Gordon's sheer confidence and searing ideas are extraordinary to hear and see.
Nancy Wilson is making a rare New York appearance tonight at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill and on Monday
the Blue Note. She will appear again in New York on
October 8th and 9th at Jazz
at Lincoln Center's Allen Room. For Nancy's full 2010 schedule, go here.
Herb Geller and Benny Goodman. Sam Geller, Herb Geller's son, sent along a link to the following clip of Herb playing tenor sax in Benny Goodman's band in 1959. You can see Herb over Benny's shoulder nodding at 0.25 into the clip...
Album covers. Dig LP covers—either to look at or drag into your iTunes library? Jim Eigo of Jazz Promo Services sent along the following link to a site devoted to them.
Rob McConnell. JazzFM.91 in Toronto posted an audio documentary and interview that CEO Ross Porter conducted with Rob McConnell, the late bandleader, valve trombonist and composer-arranger. To listen, go here.
New York jazz scene. Heading to New York on business or vacation? Wall Street Journal jazz writer Will Friedwald [pictured] is now writing a weekly column in the Friday edition of the newspaper's Greater New York section featuring his favorite jazz-club and concert picks for the coming week.
Jazz radio. After 20 years away from the airwaves, jazz radio disc jockey Jerry Karp is back on the air at KZYX in Mendocino, CA. He hosts Jazz Odyssey every Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. (PDT). See if his taste matches yours here.
CD discovery of the week. Talk about a throwback to taste: Trombonist Alan Ferber's new CD, Chamber Songs, features a nonet and strings. The result is a gentle, penetrating album rich in cinematic sensibilities. And just when you think this is a jazz-classical outing, tracks like Paradox and Fables (my favorite) pick up the pace. There are 19 musicians on this album, which is a testament to Ferber's leadership, musicianship and vision.
You can sample and buy Chamber Songs at iTunes and here.
Oddball album cover of the week. This Paul Bley album was recorded for Savoy in 1962. Accompanying the pianist was bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Pete LaRoca. I'm not sure why the album designer wanted Bley styled this way but clearly the only thing missing is a bottle of Old Spice.