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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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SERGE CHALOFF

Blue Serge +
Boston Blow-Up!

Essential Jazz Classics
EJC 5556

 

 

Blue Serge
1. A Handful of Stars
2. The Goof and I
3. Thanks for the Memory
4. All the Things You Are
5. I've Got the World on a String
6. Susie's Blues
7. Stairway to the Stars
8. How About You?.
 
Serge Chaloff - Baritone sax
Sonny Clark - Piano
Leroy Vinnegar - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums
 
Boston Blow-Up!
1. Bob The Robin
2. Yesterday's Gardenias
3. Sergical
4. What's New?
5. Mar-dros
6. Jr.
7. Body And Soul
8. Kip
9. Diane's Melody
10. Unison
11. Boomareemaroja
 
Serge Chaloff - Baritone sax
Herb Pomeroy - Trumpet
"Boots" Mussulli - Alto sax
Ray Santisi - Piano
Everett Evans - Bass
Jimmy Zitano - Drums
 

 

When it comes to the baritone saxophone, certain names stand out clearly from the crowd: Harry Carney, Gerry Mulligan, Cecil Payne, Pepper Adams, John Surman... Serge Chaloff might be listed more often among these familiar names if he had recorded more often and not died at such an early age.

An admirer of Harry Carney, Chaloff was also captivated by the bebop innovations of Charlie Parker. Serge successfully adapted these ideas to the baritone sax. He played for the bands of Boyd Raeburn, Georgie Auld and (most famously) Woody Herman, where he was one of the "Four Brothers" sax section. Unfortunately, many of the Hermanites were drug-takers. Serge's health suffered from this habit, and it kept him off the scene for much of the early 1950s. He died in 1957 when he was only 33.

Blue Serge was recorded in 1956, with Chaloff joined by a rhythm section he assembled without any prior rehearsal. So it's a "blowing session", altough the muicians work in harmony as if they have been playing together for years. Musicians like Harry Carney and Gerry Mulligan have proved that the baritone sax is not such a cumbersome instrument as it is often depicted. Chaloff certainly manages to play with the sort of dexterity that shows he had learnt lessons from Charlie Parker's virtuosity. Yet an important feature of Serge's playing doesn't seem to have come from Parker: it's Chaloff's subtle use of dynamics. A tune like I've Got the World on a String is a good example of Serge's ability to vary the power and timbre of his playing, moving from outspoken statements to an extremely gentle sound. Serge also uses an emotive vibrato on ballads.

Chaloff is well served by the rhythm section, with Sonny Clark supplying some fine solos and Leroy Vinnegar's sturdy bass holding things together. Philly Joe Jones's drums sometimes seem to be under-recorded but his effectiveness is shown by his well-judged breaks and the crescendo-ing roll he inserts into the final middle eight of I've Got the World on a String.

Boston Blow-Up was recorded in 1955, after what Serge calls "a long layoff" and it was one of a series presented by Stan Kenton. As well as a different rhythm section, Chaloff is joined by trumpeter Herb Pomeroy and altosit "Boots" Mussulli. The trumpet alongside the baritone sax sometimes gives the effect of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet's sophisticated harmonies. A tune like What's New illustrates Serge's ability to vary his tone and power, mixing the baritone's gruffness with a Ben Webster-like breathy sound. Chaloff is at his expressive best in Body and Soul, where he seems to explore the whole range of the baritone sax in search of emotion. It illustrates another Chaloff trait: plunging into extemporization without stating the theme fully - as though he can't wait to get improvising.

It is good to have these two LPs on one CD, although two takes of Herb Pomeroy's composition Herbs have been omitted from the second LP to make way for tracks 8 and 19, which come from the same sessions and are added as bonuses.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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