Aug 7, 2013
Perhaps no musician in recent memory has dominated the critics’ and fans’ polls for excellence in their instruments s much as Gary Smulyan. Downbeat, Jazztimes, and the Jazz Journalist Awards have all given him top honors in the category of baritone saxophone numerous times over the past two decades. Always in demand in big bands and large ensembles, he is also a strong bandleader in his own right, as the acclaimed Smul’s Paradise CD showed.
Gary is the Artist-in-Residence at the 18th Annual Litchfield Jazz Festival in Goshen, CT this coming weekend, and will be leading a Baritone Summit on August 10th. In the Detroit Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend, he will salute Detroit native – and role model – Pepper Adams with “The 3 Baris Play Pepper Adams.” That show will bring Smulyan on the same stage as Howard Johnson, and young gun Frank Basile, backed by Mike LeDonne, Ray Drummond, and Joe Farnsworth. Pepper Adams was in many ways the antithesis of contemporary baritone players like Gerry Mulligan, who favored melodic cool jazz. In contrast, Adams managed to bring the often cumbersome baritone into the blisteringly fast speeds of bop like no others had before, owing more to Charlie Parker than Mulligan.
I spoke with Gary about what the music of Pepper Adams means to him, why he enjoys the Detroit Jazz Festival and his participation in the recent Mark Masters Ensemble release Everything You Did (The Music Of Walter Becker And Donald Fagen). Podcast 368 contains our conversation featuring musical interludes, including:
Alexis Cole – “Urban Dreams” from I Carry Your Heart: Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams. Motema Records released a five CD set late last year that not only recorded all of Pepper Adams’ compositions, but also added lyrics to some for the first time. Singer Alexis Cole takes on this tune,
Pepper Adams – “That’s All” from Reflectory. This late 70’s release shows Pepper at work A three-time Grammy nominee, Adams won both Downbeat’s Rising Star (1957) and Top Baritone Soloist (1980) during his short lifetime. He died of complications from lung cancer at the age of 55.
Gary Smulyan – “Sunny” from Smul’s Paradise, One of my favorite CDs from last year was this homage to famous organ bands put together by Smulyan, Mike LeDonne (organ), Peter Bernstein (guitar) and long-time friend and collaborator Kenny Washington (drums).
Mark Masters Ensemble – “Do It Again” from Everything You Did (The Music Of Walter Becker And Donald Fagen). Constantly in demand as a sideman, Smulyan filled the baritone chair for this big band reimagining of music by Steely Dan.