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Several moods of quintessential jazz

Blue moods: 17 cool sax gems
Polygram India
Rs. 95

The baritone, tenor, and alto saxophone were essential ingredients of any big band in the swing era of jazz. After the advent of be-bop, performed by small groups, the tenor was almost indispensable; somewhat less so the alto. This showcase collection brings together many of the greatest saxophonists in jazz, mostly in extended sax solos, rarely featuring solos by other instruments.

The collection starts aptly with Chi Chi by Charlie Parker, one of the inventors of be-bop and the greatest alto saxophonist in jazz history. In three minutes, Parker establishes his mastery with a typically intricate melody with large intervals between notes, characteristic of the be-bop he jointly invented. Side 2 starts with Lee Konitz on alto playing Just friends, a great Parker favourite. He follows a Parker-type be-bop melody line but imparts the soft touch to the notes that made him one of the stars of the cool school that was often thought a reaction to be-bop.

The great pre-be-bop tenorists are here. Coleman Hawkins, unusually, blows light, almost feathery notes in The world is waiting for the sunrise. Lester Young in the fast-paced I want to be happy is at his smooth best, offset by his pianist (probably Nat King Cole) in an extended solo. Another rare non-sax solo comes from Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet in I know that you know, alongside contrasting solos on tenor sax by Sonny Rollins, free-ranging and without rhythm, and alto sax by Sonny Stitt.

Sidney Bechet's soprano sax in Baby won't you please come home, with its deliberately extra-rough tone, shows him exploiting this quality to contrast with the clarinet which brought him fame but which he gave up. Johnny Hodges in I didn't know about you and Phil Woods in I never has seen snow make lyrical, emotional tones flow out of the alto sax. Among many other brilliant pieces, Illinois Jacquet's Flying home (his theme tune) merits special mention as a prime example of an exuberant tenor sax set in a big band.


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