Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The beast

I haven't blogged any music for a while so here's something to make up for it. When I was seventeen a friend of mine and I went up to Montreal for the day. We went to a porn film (The Opening of Misty Beethoven) a first for both of us and were both hit with crushing depression afterwards. Wandering around the streets in and around Old Montreal we saw an independent record store—something that didn't exist in West Quebec where we came from—and went in. I bought a record called "Jazz" that had a plain black cover and no liner notes or identifying label and that anyone more sophisticated than me would have instantly recognized as an illegal pressing more commonly known in those days as a "bootleg".

I have no idea why I bought it. I think I thought that jazz was something I should cultivate and it may have been the simple label promising just that that won me over. In any case, it was my introduction to the music and the pieces on it (all recorded in the last years of WW2) have been the very definition of jazz for me ever since.

It was a collection of great tenor saxophone players and it was my introduction to Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster. This is Mr. Webster. Note the way it starts with an impressive display of pointless virtuosity by Maynard Ferguson and contrast that with the way Webster handles the music. Webster doesn't have half the technique of Ferguson but manages to do much more with it.

While I'm at it, this cut was the last one on the record. I wore that record out years ago and I haven't heard this since my early twenties. There are three saxophones here, listen especially for the penultimate solo by Harry Carney on baritone. It's followed by a bit of brilliance by Hawkins who, as session leader, is probably entitled to show off. But to what point. Carney is far more understated but better.

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