Apr 7, 2011
Gary Smulyan is consistently ranked as the greatest baritone saxophone player in jazz by the yearly Downbeat reader and critic polls. Currently a faculty member at Amherst College, Smulyan keeps a busy schedule of touring as a sideman in bands like the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stras and Joe Lovano’s Nonet, while performing as a leader in trio and larger ensembles.
I causght up with Gary as he was preparing to reunite with old friends Ray Drummons and Kenny Washington for a trio performance as his faculty recital at Amherst, as well as a master class. We talked about how the baritone sax “found him” and what he teaches his students about a life in jazz. Musical accompaniment includes:
Pepper Adams – “Sophisticated Lady” from Reflectory. Smulyan commented that Duke Ellington wrote beautiful baritone sax lines for Hary Carney, so its no wonder that Smulyan’s other great influence, Pepper Adams, picked an Ellington classic for this quartet session in 1978. The band is exceptional – Adams on bariton sax, George Mraz on bass, Sir Roland Hanna on piano and Billy Hart on drums.
Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band – “Tin Tin Deo” from I’m BeBoppin’ Too. Smulyan is much in demand for large ensembles, as witnessed by his inclusion in this 2009 release starring the late James Moody on sax and flute, Jimmy Heath on tenor sax, Antonio Hart and Mark Gross on alto sax, Smulyan on baritone, Frank Greene, Roy Hargrove, Claudio Roditi and Greg Gilbert on trumpets, Jason Jackson, Steve Davis, Michael Dease, and Douglas Purviance on trombone, Cyrus Chestnut on piano, John Lee on bass and Lewish Nash on drums. All under the direction of Slide Hampton!
Gary Smulyan – “Civilization and Its Discontents” from Homage (to Pepper Adams). This Pepper Adams tune was featured in Smulyan;s tribute CD to the late baritone saxophonist. Joining Gary, as they will on April 9 at Amherst College, were bassist Ray Drummond and dummer Kenny Washington. Pianist Tommy Flanagan joined the trio on this recording date.
Gary Smulyan – “We’ll Be Together Again” from High Noon – The Jazz Soul of Frankie Laine. Laine seems an unlikely candidate for a tribute album, but Smulyan points out he co-wrote or sang a number of top jazz tunes. Here’s one of Laine’s best, from Smulyan’s 2008 CD. The band, playing the arrangements of Mark Masters, is Smulyan on baritone, Joe Magnarelli on trumpet, Dick Oatts on alto sax, Scott Robinson on tenor sax, John Fedchock on trombone, Pete Malinverni on piano, John Clark on French Horn, Andy McKee on bass, and Steve Johns on drums
On April 9, 8 pm, Amherst College presents a concert featuring Gary Smulyan, Ray Drummond and Kenny Washington at Buckley Recital Hall, Amherst, MA. Immediately following the performance, ISHA will host a talk back with the musicians. The concert is free and open to the public. No tickets are required; seating is by general admission. The masterclass is free and open to all students and the public.