Thursday, November 6, 2014

Masters of tenor saxophone – The Savoy Sessions

THE 200th ANNIVERSARY OF ADOLPHE SAX’S BIRTH

   When young Antoine-Joseph ‘Adolphe’ Sax was learning flute and clarinet he noticed some limitations of wind instruments both in sound and in technical issues. Working in his father’s workshop he was designing new solutions in various wind instruments. He was 15, when he took place in competitions exposing constructions of flutes and clarinets crafted him and as 24 years old he reported his first patent for mechanical improvements giving bass clarinet better intonation and technical possibilities. Later, when constructing new instruments, he was trying to merge strong sound of brass with precision and velocity of woodwinds. In June 28, 1846 he patented saxophone and presented whole range of saxophone family from subcontrabass to sopranino. Adolphe Sax was also successful creator of brass instruments, the whole saxhorn family as well as some less popular instruments like saxtromba or saxtuba. But his highest achievement was saxophone, the instrument setting the sound of 20th century.
   First position taken by saxophone at once was marching music. This gave instrument popularity and big number of specimens, although this kind of popularity didn’t change too much. Visible sign of marching bands career is E-flat and B-flat pitch although in early years there were concert soprano and alto saxophones in C. The demand of various military and civil bands was so high, after one decade of selling his instruments he was hired as the saxophone teacher in Conservatoire de Paris. But great career of saxpophone begins almost half century after Adolphe Sax died (1894), in big bands of swing era. Powerful sound of saxophone sections was perfect element in band sound and in late thirties and early forties the body of great saxophonists show solo possibilities of the instrument. In orchestras of Duke Ellington (Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster), Count Basie (Earle Warren, Lester Young and Herschel Evans), Cab Calloway (Illinois Jacquet and Ike Quebec), Fletcher Henderson (Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins).

The Tenor Sax Album – The Savoy Sessions (1977)

   Tenor saxophone is associated with jazz more clearly than any other member of the saxophone family. Soprano and alto saxophones are widely used in 20th century concert and popular music. Baritone and bass are presented mainly in orchestras, other members of family, sopranino, sopranissimo, contrabass and subcontrabass are in use rarely in saxophone groups and in symphonic orchestras for the sound possibilities as coloring means in modern music. Tenor is more powerful in dynamic and sound harmonics than alto and has more virtuoso capabilities than baritone. In effect this instrument became iconic for jazz in forties and fifties as well as for popular culture in sixties. And since forties every decade brings bunch of great saxophone masters giving new original sound, new style and new soul for improvised music. From the first generation of great tenor saxophonists jazz tradition was constructed by studio and live recordings.
   The Tenor Sax Album from 1988 is 2LP album of Savoy Records published in 1977. It comprises swing and bebop recordings of five masters of tenor saxophone, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Illinois Jacquet, Ike Quebec and John Hardee. Recordings were made since 1944 in period of five years with the exclusion of Coleman Hawkins session that took place in Chicago May 27, 1954. The first session presented on Savoy album was Ben Webster Quintet in March 13, 1944 with only one but beautifully rendered tune Body and Soul and Ben Webster Quartet recorded April 17, 1944. In both Ben Webster was playing with pianist Johnny Guarnieri. In quartet played also bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer David Booth, in quintet they were supported by Teddy Walters on guitar, Billy Taylor on bass and Cozy Cole on drums.

Ben Webster – Body and Soul (March 13, 1944)

   Four tracks recorded August 7, 1945 by Ike Quebec with Johnny Guarnieri, Bill De Arango (g), Milt Hinton (b) and J. C. Hears (dr) are interesting examples of full-blown swing style with transition elements that were common in bebop music. With six tracks album presents recordings of saxophonist John Hardee, one of popular soloists in late swing era. His recordings were done with Joe Jordan (tr), Billy Kyle (p), John Simmons (b), Cozy Cole (dr) and with Milt Page (org), Billy Taylor (p), John Simmons (b) and Shadow Wilson (dr). He was one of tenor sax players who were experimenting with sound expression in times bebop was born. In this style of early bebop era are also eight tracks recorded 7 and 8 of January 1946 by Illinois Jacquet (1922-2004) with Emmett Berry (tr), Bill Doggett (p), Freddie Green (g) and again John Simmons (b) with Shadow Wilson (dr). Last seven tracks are recordings made in 1954 by Coleman Hawkins whose great personality and iconic sound being a milestone in history of jazz saxophone. As other albums in series of The Savoy Sessions, this is re-edition of material published on early and very hard to find Savoy records. Musical and technical qualities of this album make its worth at least three and a half of star.