Archive for tenor saxophone

A “Blowin’ Session” in the QC

Posted in Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, Unsung Saxophone Masters, Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2019 by curtjazz

Jazz lore is filled with stories of the “Blowing Session”; where the great instrumentalists who played the same instrument, would gather on a stage and demonstrate their prowess. Usually this would begin with the basic head arrangement of a well known standard and from there, the combatants would take things to the next level, in their solos, each vying to outdo the last. Often, these were friendly completions; other times, if some of the cats had “beef” with each other, this could be a battle nearly to the death.

Sometimes, the cats would take these battles to the studio. There, we would get a mixed bag; the constraints of studio time costs and realizing that the results would have to fit onto at least one side of an LP, could dampen some of the fancier flights. However, we still have some classic and near classic recordings, and many of these, to no surprise, involved tenor saxophone players. I’ll drop a list of some of the best at the end.

Right now, you need to know about a little bit of the revival of that tradition that will be happening in Charlotte, NC on January 17 – 19, in Jazz Arts Initiative’s THE JAZZ ROOM. We will have have some of the finest tenor players from the area, coming together to do battle. Each will appear with our all-star rhythm section (Lovell Bradford – piano; Aaron Gross – bass; Malcolm Charles – drums) and in various combinations on stage together. The musical sparks are bound to fly!

Juan Rollan

Over the weekend, our lineup will change from night to night and it includes the following sax masters: Chad Eby; Greg Jarrell; David Lail; Brian Miller; Juan Rollan; Annalise Stalls and PhillipWhack

Chad Eby

The accompanying clips are samples of a few of our tenor masters, smokin’ their way through some of their prior gigs. Now, image what we will get when we bring all of these ingredients together.

Phillip Whack

Two sets nightly, from Thursday, January 17 – Saturday, January 19, means you will have six opportunities to be a part of JAI’s Tenor Madness. Thursday and Friday, the times are 6:00 pm and 8:15 pm; Saturday sets are at 7:00 pm and 9:15 pm. THE JAZZ ROOM is located at The Stage Door Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. I will be your MC for all sets but please don’t let that stop you from coming!

Annalise Stalls

Tickets are a true bargain! $14 in advance and $16 at the door, until there are no more. To get them, go to

For further info about Jazz Arts Initiative, visit their website

Oh yeah, I did promise a list of recordings that include some great tenor battles. Here are five to get you started, in no particular order:

Boss Tenors – Gene Ammons & Sonny Stitt [Verve]

A Blowin’ Session – Johnny Griffin (w/ John Coltrane & Hank Mobley) [Blue Note]

Tenor Conclave – Al Cohn; Zoot Sims; Mobley; Coltrane [Prestige/OJC]

Tenor Madness – Sonny Rollins (w/Coltrane on the title track) [Prestige/OJC]

Alone Together – Tough Young Tenors (Walter Blanding Jr.; James Carter; Herb Harris; Tim Warfield; Todd Williams) [Antilles/Verve]

Album Review: Michael Pedicin – Why Stop Now…Ubuntu

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , on October 9, 2013 by curtjazz

This review first appeared in the October 2013 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s Jazz Inside Magazine

Michael Pedicin

Michael Pedicin

WHY STOP NOW…UBUNTU – GroundBlue Records GB0001  Why Stop Now; Tunji; Downtown Found; Then I Saw You; Trane Stop; 27 Up; Newtown; Song of The Underground Railroad; Ubuntu

PERSONNEL: Michael Pedicin, tenor saxophone; Johnnie Valentino, guitar; Andy Lalasis, acoustic bass; Rick Germanson, acoustic piano, fender rhodes piano; Vic Stevens, drums

By Curtis Davenport

For every “star” that the jazz media gets excited about, there are ten cats like Michael Pedicin.

Guys who are strong technicians, who day in and day out can play just about anything, who make a living in the studios and on the big name tours but whose names are forgotten by the public as soon as they are mentioned by the star when/if they introduce the band. Michael Pedicin’s name was new to me when I received this disc for review but there was something naggingly familiar about it. I had heard of him before but I couldn’t recall where. Then I started doing a bit of research and it all came together. I cut my musical teeth on the albums in the ‘70’s that came out of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. Geek that I was/am, I also read the liner notes of these albums voraciously.  Michael Pedicin (or Michael Pedicin, Jr. as he was known then) appeared in the sax section of a countless number of these records.  In addition to his time over at Sigma Sound Studios, Pedicin spent two years in Dave Brubeck’s group, founded Temple University’s jazz studies program and earned a doctorate in psychology.   Now Michael Pedicin is finally playing the music that he wants to play. Why Stop Now…Ubuntu is the latest in a series of strong, personal musical statements that Pedicin has made over the last six years.

Pedicin freely admits to having two major musical influences, Michael Brecker and John Coltrane. The two covers on the album are Coltrane tunes. However even on the other selections, which were composed by Pedicin or members of his band, the spirit of the two mentors is quite strong. “Tunji”, a rarely covered tune from the 1962 Coltrane album, is majestic with a searching statement from Pedicin’s sax, which cascades through multiple choruses and a swinging 4/4 solo by pianist Rick Germanson. The doubling of the tenor and Johnnie Valentino’s guitar on the melody line adds a nice touch. “Song of the Underground Railroad”, from The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions, is given a quasi hip hop update, which works only because of Pedicin’s hard grooving solo.

Mr. Pedicin is also an outstanding interpreter of ballads, which is evidenced on “Then I Saw You”, written by Valentino, on which the tenorman lets his passion flow as he caresses each note, making an articulate, romantic statement before turning things over to Mr. Valentino for a tasty single line solo. “Newtown” is a heartbreaking tribute to the victims of the infamous mass murder at the Connecticut elementary school, also written by Valentino. Here Pedicin is more like Brecker than Trane as he conveys the despair that we all felt on that day last December, before changing tempo in the mid-section as he looks for hope in the midst of the bleakness. “Why Stop Now” crackles with energy as Pedcin alternates staccato and legato passages in front of Rick Germanson’s rolling piano and Valentino’s guitar. Valentino, a noted L.A. session cat, is a strong composer and has a bit of Grant Green in his guitar, which for me is never a bad thing. Milwaukee native Germanson is a veteran of many recordings, including four good records as a leader. His skittish solo on “Trane Stop” is a highlight.

For me, the difference between an “artist” and a “performer” is the finding of one’s voice. It can come at an early age, it can come late or it can never come. Michael Pedicin apparently found his sometime around age 60 and Why Stop Now…Ubuntu is one of the sweet fruits.

Album Review: J.D. Allen – Grace

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , on July 8, 2013 by curtjazz

The following review first appeared in the July 2013 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s Jazz Inside Magazine.

J.D. Allen

j.d. allen

GRACE – Savant Records SCD 2130  Mass; Load Star; Chagall; Luke Sky Walker; Grace; Detroit; Cross Damon; Pole Star; Papillion 1973; Selah (My Refuge); The Little Dipper

PERSONNEL: JD Allen, tenor saxophone; Eldar Djangirov, piano; Dezron Douglas, bass; Jonathan Barber, drums

By Curtis Davenport

On Grace, his seventh album as a leader, saxophonist J.D. Allen has made a few changes. He has a new bassist and drummer with Dezron Douglas and Jonathan Barber replacing longtime cohorts Gregg August and Rudy Royston. He also has expanded the group from a trio to a quartet with the addition of the celebrated young Russian-born pianist Eldar Djangirov. What thankfully, has not happened is a change in the quality and style of the music. Douglas and Barber have fallen right into place as if they had been playing alongside Allen for years. And Djangirov has done something that many pianists cannot, that is, blended with the group’s musical style rather than alter it.

Allen has been recording without a pianist since 2008. His output over that time period has been consistently good; marked by his inventive bursts on the tenor on tunes that averaged about 3 ½ minutes. His discs were high energy affairs that stretched the boundaries of tradition to their breaking point without bursting them. I find him to be the best sax player in the trio format since Sonny Rollins. But if you’ve got to add a pianist, young Mr. Djangirov proves to be the one for the job. I had my doubts since in his own recordings, Djangirov has so far shown a proclivity for playing long albeit technically impressive solos designed to display his speed and dexterity. Fortunately, he has brought those tendencies under control here. He gets where Allen is going and he then enhances what is happening. Djangirov solos are relatively brief and pointed but no less striking than those in his solo work. The pianist appreciates that less is often more and when he is not soloing, he is as likely to lay out as he is to comp behind Allen. The result is an exciting young group with a sound that recalls the Classic Coltrane Quartet circa 1965, just before their breakup. Allen, like Trane, is at times almost begging to go “out”. Djangirov, like Tyner, is helping to keep the saxman grounded and Douglas and Barber create incredible rhythms. The result is exhilarating for the listener, with very little excess. Tracks still clock in at an average of 5:30. There has been a little expansion for the additional instrument but Allen and company still manage to avoid the self-absorbed meandering that plagues many of today’s recordings.

The selections, all Allen originals, are divided into two “acts”, as if a play or musical. Though the liner notes explain the significance of each composition to the overall “narrative”, I never got the feeling that this “story” was essential to the performance or the subsequent enjoyment of the music. Grace is a fine piece of modern jazz, whatever the back story.

I did have a number of favorite tracks; “Chagall”, a piece which moves around skittishly as if it is one of its namesake’s paintings come to life. I love Djangirov’s comping here, which recalls McCoy behind Coltrane on “My Favorite Things”. “Luke Sky Walker” featuring some energetic playing from Allen as he is being “chased” by Djangirov is also strong.  “Cross Damon” which with its mournful beginning, suggests Coltrane’s “Alabama”, before Barber kicks it into high gear and Allen joyfully follows his lead; as if to say “the time for mourning is over, let’s celebrate”. Barber is a terrific young drummer. I had never heard him before this album but I will pay attention from now on. “Papillion 1973” is a favorite for two reasons: Djangirov’s solo which is one of his strongest on the album and also that it evoked memories of one of Steve McQueen’s finest performance on film. Finally, “Selah (My Refuge)”, is the most traditional piece on the album. Allen’s tenor is bluesy is gorgeous and Djangirov provides appropriately understated counterpoint. It’s a calming place to come and reflect after being taken on an exhilarating ride.