Baritone Saxophonist Gary Smulyan Pays Tribute to Organ Jazz Legends with Capri Debut "Smul's Paradise"
(Published: February 22, 2012)
* Featuring Mike LeDonne, Peter Bernstein & Kenny Washington *
Smul's Paradise, baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan's debut recording for Capri Records, is a tribute to the classic jazz organ trio format. Operating in nearly unchartered waters as a baritone player fronting an organ trio, Smul's Paradise gets its name and direction from saxophonist Smulyan, and he is almost certainly one of very few baritone players to front such a group. The CD will be released January 17, 2012.
"It's the first time for me," Smulyan acknowledges, "but I've been wanting to do this for a long time. It's such a favorite format of mine; I grew up listening to George Benson with Lonnie Smith, and Don Patterson on those albums by Grant Green, and Larry Young - beautiful, incredibly swinging music."
Prior to Smul's Paradise, the quartet featured on this album had never played together as a group, though both Hammond B3-player Mike LeDonne and drummer Kenny Washington have recorded several times with Smulyan, and guitarist Peter Bernstein has played weekly gigs at Smoke in New York for the past decade as part LeDonne's organ quartet. All are close friends outside the recording studio and you can hear the camaraderie among the players. The impeccable rhythmic and harmonic give-and-take among the band is indeed paradise for an expressive baritone player like Smulyan, but the other players get ample time to show off their solo chops as well.
The album is also a tribute to organ legend Don Patterson, a favorite of both Smulyan and LeDonne. Three of the eight tracks pay homage to Patterson's legacy: "Up In Betty's Room" and "Aries," both Patterson compositions, and "D.P. Blues," Smulyan's ode to the late organ player. The remaining tracks include organist Rhonda Scott's funky "Pistachio," an up-tempo waltz version of the classic pop hit "Sunny," George Coleman's "Little Miss Half Steps" and two more originals penned by Smulyan: "Smul's Paradise" and "Heavenly Hours."
Converging in the late Manfred Knoop's basement studio on a snowy spring day, the quartet laid down the entire album in mere hours, with no rehearsal time. Most of the tracks on Smul's Paradise were recorded in one take, quite a testament to the vision of Smulyan and the skill of his musicians. That the music of a quartet on its first afternoon together sounds fresh is no surprise, but the music of Smul's Paradise showcases four players truly playing with one voice.
Gary Smulyan has long been recognized as a major voice on baritone saxophone. Winner of the 2011 DownBeat Critics Poll and Jazz Times Readers and Critics Polls for baritone saxophone, Smulyan is known for his aggressive rhythmic sense, intelligent and creative harmonic vocabulary, and a strong and incisive wit. He's been a member of Woody Herman's Young Thundering Herd, and was part of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Bob Brookmeyer, as well as the Mingus Big Band and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. He currently performs with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Joe Lovano's Nonet, the Dave Holland Octet as well as Big Band, as well as George Coleman's Octet and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.
In addition, he has shared the stage and recording studio with a wide range of luminaries including Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Tito Puente, Ray Charles, and Diana Ross, among many others. Smulyan is a six-time Grammy award winner for his work with B.B. King, Joe Lovano, Dave Holland and the Vanguard Orchestra.
Capri Records is an independent label started by record collector, jazz enthusiast and entrepreneur Tom Burns. Launched in 1983 with a release by tenor saxophonist Spike Robinson, the Bailey, Colorado-based label now has a catalog of over one hundred titles including those by bassists Ray Brown and Red Mitchell, trombonists Al Grey and Phil Wilson, saxophonist Bud Shank and drummer Louie Bellson. Capri has also released stellar albums by the Mark Masters Ensemble, the Grachan Moncur III Octet, pianist-composer Michael Pagán, saxophonists Bud Shank with Phil Woods, guitarist Joshua Breakstone, drummer Jeff Hamilton, pianist Mike Wofford, saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, organist Atsuko Hashimoto, guitarist Graham Dechter, saxophonist Keith Oxman, the Curtis Fuller sextet and many others. Capri has also helped launch the careers of a number of artists, including trumpeter Ron Miles, flutist Holly Hofmann, composer/ arranger Chie Imaizumi, and the Clayton- Hamilton Jazz Orchestra co-led by John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton. The label has been named "Best Jazz Label" in Denver's Westword Newspaper.
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More Information: http://www.garysmulyan.com
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