Byas was that underrated tenor man, the missing link between Coleman Hawkins’ swinging melodic tendencies and John Coltrane’s “sheets of sound” flurries and allegedly “angry” playing.
The first few measures of “Laura” encapsulate Byas’ playing: he used a Rico 3 reed on a Florida Otto Link 3* (for those who don’t play tenor sax or just don’t care that much, it’s a light, brash reed on a narrow, brash mouthpiece: normally you wouldn’t put the two “brash” elements together): the resulting sound was, in Byas’ hands and mouth at least, simultaneously loud and powerful, and whispering and tender.
The song itself, wistful, rolling rubato like oil on water… a happy mourning like Guaraldi.
And as the number fades out, at 8:05, the tiniest flits and flows from the soprano range of Preminger’s tenor, the pads closing louder than the air going past them. A bird flown over, the few feathers with which it parts sluicing down to land on soft leaves.
The entire piece is worth hearing and learning, but it’s the last roughly five seconds that make this one: a delicate yet raspy glissando from C# down the horn, around the bell and nestling into Bb, it’s an aural representation of a old master; a minuscule mosaic of power, grace, whimsy and (the elusive) patience–a retired General drinking tea on a front porch, watching kids flit by the house, kids playing soldier. A tiny smile tremoring his laugh lines, eyes crinkled with sadness or hope.
It’s technically an entire song, at 1:29, but the whole thing, in my mind, qualifies as a Lick Worth Learning.
From the 1999 discovery of a concert recorded March 10, 1963, at the University of Illinois at Champaign, The Illinois Concert is seven tracks long, but far and away the best (in my mind) is the shortest: Something Sweet, Something Tender.
Nearly four and half minutes shorter than its parent track on Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, this version is all that’s wonderful about it, in concentrated form.
Performed entirely rubato on bass clarinet, with occasional smoky flourishes from bass and piano to give him enough clouds to float among, it’s typical Dolphy, but at his best: huge intervallic leaps ultimately whimsical, bittersweet and even sad.
1:26 to 1:29 is to me the best part, even though it barely qualifies as a lick: a gentle glissando from the top of the bass clarinet to the bottom. Like a quick review of one’s life, with an ache for those we miss.
Gilmore is the most underrated tenor player ever: he finished his career with Sun-Ra (because he could pretty much do what he wanted, he said), and beyond that, very few knew who he was. Shame. Gilmore was allegedly where John Coltrane got his “sheets of sound” idea (even asking Gilmore after a show, point-blank, if he could, for all intents and purposes, steal his style): how Goddamned cool is that? “Yeah, I pretty much gave Coltrane what he needed, but it’s cool… I don’t need any recognition. I’m gonna hang here and jam with Sun-Ra.”
Pretty much every phrase in this clip is noteworthy, and I strive to imitate/ emulate almost all parts of it. Dig:
I have perhaps an unnatural affection for Hank Mobley: he seems like the embodiment of cool, of “I really couldn’t care less if you dig me.” Workout is, in my opinion, the best of his work, and Smokin’ is the best of his songs, particularly the dragged-behind-time five seconds of Smokin’, from 2:13 to 2:18 (2:12 to 2:17 if you’re hearing the CD). It’s a tiny lick, but to me it is infinitely cool. Dig: