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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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PAUL GONSALVES

Cookin'

Fresh Sound FSR-CD 472
(distributed in the UK by Discovery Records)



 
1. It Don’t Mean A Thing
2. Take Nine
3. Everything Happens To Me
4. Don’t Blame Me
5. Festival
6. Clark’s Bars
7. Daddy-O’s Patio
8. Blues
9. Impeccable
10. Paul’s Idea
11. Phat Bach
12. Milli Terry
13. Funky
14. The Girl I Call Baby
15. Falmouth Recollections
16. The Way You Look Tonight
17. Foofy For President
18. The Man From Potter’s Crossing
19. Dance Of The Reluctant Drag
20. Empathy, For Ruth
 
Paul Gonsalves - Tenor sax
Clark Terry - Trumpet
Porter Kilbert - Baritone sax (tracks 1-4), alto sax (tracks 15-20)
Junior Mance - Piano (tracks 1-4)
Chubby Jackson - Bass (tracks 1-4)
Eugene Miller - Drums (tracks 1-4)
Willie Jones - Piano (tracks 5-14)
Jimmy Woode - Bass, vocals (tracks 5-20)
Sam Woodyard - Drums (tracks 5-20)
Mike Simpson - Flute (tracks 15-20)

Ramsey Lewis - Piano (tracks 15-20)

 

Duke Ellington certainly knew how to pick them. Think of all the brilliant musicians he chose for his orchestra: from Ben Webster to Cootie Williams, from Hodges to Carney, from Nance to Nanton. This album features just two of the many instrumentalists whose individuality appealed to Ellington, so that Paul Gonsalves was in Duke's band for 24 years and Clark Terry was there for eight.

Many saxophonists - especially tenorists - sound like one another, but Gonsalves was unique. He might have owed something to Ben Webster (his predecessor in the Ellington orchestra) and perhaps to Don Byas, but his style was his very own. A self-effacing musician, Paul made his playing look effortless but his approach was entirely individual. His oblique, sidelong style of soloing arose from his adventurous handling of harmony - often seeming as if he was sliding out of tune but his solos always made perfect musical sense. He was virtually an avant-garde player who didn't sound at all way-out, and few subsequent tenorists have been able to match his style - although Tony Coe is the nearest comparison.

Paul Gonsalves is best known for his marathon 27-chorus solo on Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival and this shows one side of his genius. But it is good to hear other aspects of his playing on CDs like this, which brings together three small-group sessions from 1956 and 1957, originally issued on the LPs The Jazz School, Cookin' and The Colourful Strings of Jimmy Woode. In fact Paul's solo on Festival is very reminiscent of his Newport performance, consisting of several swinging blues choruses which even include phrases he used at Newport. His solo is driven along by bassist Jimmy Woode and drummer Sam Woodyard's trademark offbeat rimshots.

However, other tracks show Paul in different lights. For example, Everything Happens To Me and Don't Blame Me (where Clark Terry takes a back seat) display Gonsalves' ability to play an extended ballad solo in the Coleman Hawkins tradition, with lyrical cadenza endings. At the start of the former track, Paul makes the tenor sax sound like a clarinet in delicacy and tone. On the ballad The Girl I Call Baby, his saxophone matches Ben Webster for warmth and breathiness.

Clark Terry is the ideal companion, with his own distinctive trumpet style: silvery but mellow in tone, with a staccato attack which adds impact to his solos. On Blues (track 8) he sounds as excitable as Roy Eldridge. Paul's Idea and Phat Bach contain good examples of Terry's wonderfully puckish horn playing. The former track also illustrates another pleasure of this particular session: the playful pianism of Willie Jones. His joyful madness in Funky is a mixture of reckless excess and bluesy funkiness.

The sound quality differs on the three sessions. The first one sounds slightly boxy and the last one a bit too echoey but the middle session (tracks 5 to 14) is fine. Many of the tracks are easygoing blues tunes but Gonsalves and Terry make them varied as well as full of pleasant surprises. In some ways, these recordings may remind you of those earlier small-group sessions that members of the Ellington band recorded in the late thirties and early forties. As those sessions produced some first-class jazz, this suggests the high quality of the music on this album.

Tony Augarde



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