Thursday, September 18, 2014

Straight Horning: Lucky & Zoot

It’s been fun having a re-listen to a couple of albums from players better known for their tenor playing. If you are into the soprano both of these albums are worth a listen.

Lucky Thompson - Lucky Strikes (Prestige, 1964)

My friend Nick emailed me about this album (he has just discovered it) – I hadn’t listened to it for a couple of years and I’d forgotten how sweet Lucky’s soprano tone can be – focused but without too much brightness and with a lightness/fleetness I find attractive and it has made me want to check out more of his soprano work.

Thompson alternates between tenor and soprano sax (4 tunes on each) and the rhythm cooks throughout - as you would expect from Hank Jones (piano) Richard Davis (bass) and Connie Kay (drums). The soprano tunes are: “In A Sentimental Mood” (great ballad sound) and Thomposon’s “Mid-Nite Oil,” “Mumble Neua” and “Prey-Loot.” The stereo separation is pretty heavy with the sax panned well to the left channel – not necessarily a bad if you want to isolate the sax or rhythm section (another good one for this is the album Motion by Lee Konitz).

Don’t discount his tenor playing either. I feel Lucky is a somewhat overlooked/forgotten player.

Zoot Sims Soprano Sax (Pablo, 1976)

There are a few albums from the 70s where Zoot plays soprano on the occasional track or two. Here he’s on soprano throughout along with Ray Bryant (piano) George Mraz (bass) and Grady Tate (drums) in support.

There is an effortlessness and exuberance to Zoot’s playing that I dig – it sounds like he is having fun. The fuzzy tone transfers from his tenor but takes on a bit more edge on the small horn (which is more pronounced when he pushes the volume). He’s melodic and swinging (as always) playing standards and a couple of blues. This time around the ballads “Moonlight In Vermont” and “Ghost Of A Chance” stood out to me – lovely playing.

The bass is a bit rubber band sounding and for my tastes (more noticeable during the solos) and the bowed solo on "Baubles Bangles & Beads" could have been shelved.

Be sure to check out Zoot on alto – very nice too.

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