Friday, February 27, 2009

Two plus One

“Take away the right to say fuck and you take away the right to say fuck the government.”

--Lenny Bruce

Here is a video of the late great Sonny Stitt playing the beautiful ballad I Can’t Get Started (With You) written by Vernon Duke. The song itself as written is gorgeous but Jazz musicians rarely play standards as written and Stitt mostly just hints at the melody which is fine with me. I generally don’t have much appreciation for mediocre players with poor technique but you never need worry about that with Stitt. Stitt basically does everything right. He has a great sound whether he is playing alto sax or tenor sax and in the video notice how his fingers hardly seem to move as opposed to fingers flying way off the keys. His articulation is superb as is his mastery of the Jazz idiom in the swing feel department and a nice use of vibrato as in not overly done.

Stitt claimed he wasn’t influenced by Charlie Parker but developed his playing on his own and I believe him mainly because he doesn’t sound like Parker to me. His phrasing, harmonic approach, and tonal quality all sound unique. Of course some people say he sounds like Parker but I don’t agree and believe that they are just confusing the fact that Stitt and Parker are playing the same type of music on the same type of instrument but whatever. The bottom line is that if you are familiar with Stitt he is instantly recognizable as is Parker which says it all as far as originality goes in my opinion.

At any rate here is the music.

Paul Desmond is also a favorite of mine and here he is playing Emily (sorry, don’t recall the composer) another lovely ballad. In this case the melody itself remains much more intact than I Can’t Get Started as played by Stitt but that is the prerogative of the Jazz musician. Desmond is much more understated than Stitt and provides a nice contrast of style. Notice that Desmond is the only one who solos on this in contrast to the Stitt performance where the pianist and bassist solo. Ballads are slow and difficult to keep interesting for the audience so I tend to like ballad arrangements that feature only one artist which keeps the performance shorter. Also notice Desmond only hints at the song as written in the last chorus rather than playing it as he did in the first chorus.

This next one is for my friend Dennis Perrin. This a video featuring Lenny Bruce who was a Jazz fan himself working with who I consider to be the greatest Jazz musician of all time, Cannonball Adderley, a great combination and fun to watch.


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