And part 2!
And part 2!
Luke Miller has been kind enough to send us another transcription. This time from Ronnie Cuber on the tune ‘Groovin’ High’ from the 2012 album, Boplicity. Head on over to the transcriptions page to check it out!
We are delighted to announce two more additions to the Transcriptions page! Pepper Adams‘ solo from the classic Mingus recording of Moanin’ on Roots & Blues. The other is a Ronnie Cuber solo on a Bob Dylan cover from a Steve Gadd album. Thanks goes out to Bob Trachtenberg for these new transcriptions. Enjoy!
December 25, 1941 –
From Ronnie’s website:
If you research back to the George Benson Cookbooks “66” “67” on Columbia, Which have already been released on CD, You’ll find a young, early twenties baritone saxophone master. As you listen to this keep in mind that Benson and Cuber had this as a working band. His sound is something amazingly beautiful and vivid. That Benson band,from the day, was a working unit and a marvelous display of an an emerging Ronnie Cuber. As Cuber developed past his early years into a quintessential sideman for people as diverse as, Eddie Palmieri or Aretha Franklin and King Curtis. Nothing had been released under his name until the mid-seventies when he released the recording, Cuber Libre on Xanadu Records with Barry Harris,Sam Jones and Al “Tutti” Heath. At the same time in the early seventies, around 1973 and before, he had been adding one of a kind talents to personal projects with friends such as Mike Manieri’s ground breaking White Elephant Band and Bobby Paunetto’s Latin Jazz Projects. Cuber, at a point in the seventies was also in the Saturday Night Live band, Backing artists like Frank Zappa ,and playing solos with people like Zappa that to this day are light years ahead of what most people can play. For my ears – Cuber is one of the most soulful musicians ever.Bar none !! Cuber, born December 25, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York, has been composing, arranging and leading his own groups since 1959. He is acknowledged to be one of the greats among baritone saxophonists, with a sound that is an exciting amalgam of straight-ahead jazz, hard bop, soul, R& B, and Latin . In his teens he was chosen to perform in Marshall Brown’s Newport Youth Band at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival.
By ‘ 62 Cuber had recorded with Slide Hampton. He worked and recorded with Maynard Ferguson’s band from 1963-1965. After stints with the orchestras of both Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman , Cuber augmented his New York session work by performing and recording with the great Latin bands of Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Palmieri, Mario Bauza. At the same time, Mr. Cuber was playing alongside and recording with R&B legend King Curtis and backing Aretha Franklin.Ronnie holds this association in high regard. He loved his friendship with King also. His killin’ solos with Lee Konitz’s Nonet from 1977-79 are historic as well as a study in Bari -sax-ology.. During that decade and the 1980s, Mr. Cuber also recorded with Mickey Tucker, Rein De Graaff, and Nick Brignola, and appeared with such artists as Andy and Jerry Gonzalez and vibraphone player Bobby Paunetto. Other leading artists with whom Mr. Cuber has performed include Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, the Eagles, Chaka Khan, Maynard Ferguson, Conrad Herwig, Boz Scaggs, Horace Silver, and Frank Zappa. From the 1990s to the present, Mr. Cuber has performed regularly with the Mingus Big Band and recorded several discs for Steeplechase and Fresh Sound. He created the Baritone Saxophone Band Tribute to Gerry Mulligan, and has spent summers touring with blues artist Dr. John, for whose band he has written numerous large horn section arrangements for tour and television performances. Mr. Cuber’s summer 2000 tour found him opening for Dr. John at European jazz festivals with his quartet and his old friend, organist Lonnie Smith. This is someone that has something to offer every listener of all tastes and ranges musically. Cuber is a musicians musician, as well as one of the most gifted players ever. His gift is in his ability to function with somebody like Steve Gadd and then go record with Horace Silver, at the same time do a tour with Eric Clapton. There is not one of his records that contains any half-hearted playing or musical skating. When he plays, it’s serious creative business and he tells a story. If you pick up anything under Cuber’s name, you’re guaranteed a winner. Check him out ! In this day and age, Ronnie is one of the modern day masters, and supreme creators. Do hear him ASAP! This recording, ” Ronnie”. Released last year on Steeplechase records, is some of the most vivid and personal saxophone playing ever done on a baritone saxophone. This CD is a shining example of Cubers big, beefy baritone sax tone and a fluent technique that is a one of a kind match between the gritty, down-home feeling of R&B and the advanced harmonies of bebop.
Ronnie Cuber’s Set up:
Interview by Tim Hecker.
Dr. Jared Sims is the current Director of Jazz at West Virginia University and the former Assistant Director of Jazz at the University of Rhode Island. He performs on all of the saxophones, clarinet and flute, and has recorded with such artists as Bob Brookmeyer, Cecil McBee, the Temptations, the Four Tops and many others. He has both toured internationally and inspired young artists at home as the guest conductor of All State ensembles in multiple states. This week, he was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule in order to give an interview to jazzbarisax.com. Here’s what he had to say–
I know you play a lot of baritone- in fact, you once told me that you are a bari sax guy at heart. What kindled your fondness for the baritone sax? What keeps you coming back to it?
I like to say that I did not necessarily pick the baritone — the baritone picks me. I like it because it feels natural to me. The other saxes feel great too, but the baritone has always felt normal and in some ways easier for me. I first had the baritone in my hands when I was in the fifth grade. The band teacher tried to slow me down but instead I was playing bari in the high school jazz band by the end of my fifth grade year.
What artists and recordings have influenced you as a saxophonist, especially but not exclusively on baritone? To what degree do those who came before you influence your own recordings?
I really like the fire of Ronnie Cuber and Pepper Adams and the imagination of Sahib Shihab and Cecil Payne. Tradition is very important and to me. I think we have to reference tradition in our playing to add depth to our sound, but we also need to know the tradition in order to find new ways of presenting the music in terms of forms, or harmonies, or phrasing.
What is the first thing you notice when listening to a saxophonist, and what draws you to that element of playing?
I think the sound is the first thing. If the sound is not full or it is out of tune or uncentered, it is really hard to hear. Otherwise, I notice the phrasing and the rhythm of what is being played. In some ways the sound of the instrument is the HARDEST and MOST IMPORTANT thing that we can do on the saxophone but so often students do not make this a primary focus of study.
The classic question- what is your setup, and why is your equipment what it is? Do you think equipment makes a difference, or do you believe that it is all up to the player?
I have two baritone setups and go back and forth between them. One is a silver Buescher True Tone/Big B from the 1930s. It is a strange transitional horn and only about 900 of them were made. The other baritone is a silver Conn Naked Lady from the late 1940s. The mouthpieces that I use are a vintage Berg Larsen and a new Theo Wanne. I use Marca reeds either 2.5 or 3 strength.
I choose a setup based on the gig – the style and what instruments that I need to blend with. I think it’s up the player to live with the setup and not expect the setup to feel good right away. That said, I think players need to experiment a lot with every aspect of the setup — including where the ligature sits on the mouthpiece, the reed placement, etc. At the end of the day, though, yes a great player will sound great playing anything.
Another classic question- what is your practice routine? Do you have any practice rituals specific to bari sax?
My most recent favorite practice routine is to play 20 minutes on each instrument starting with flute, then clarinet, alto, tenor, and then baritone. My entire baritone technique is based on efficiency, which means that the air and the fingers and everything needs to be as perfect as possible to have the right sound and precision. That said, I could pick up a baritone cold without playing a bunch of other small instruments, but it’s good to have a nice long routine to put the air and fingers in the right place.
What are your interests outside of music? Do you find that they influence your playing, and if so in what way?
I really like to travel, to go to art museums, and to be outdoors. These are all things that help to investigate the creative process and to contemplate creativity.
Do you aim for certain qualities in your sound? What do you do to achieve the sound that you want?
I like a FULL sound with all of the different ranges of the sound included. Sometimes, I record myself and listen back to hear the true sound of the instrument. In general, mouthpiece sirens and overtones open up the sound. At this point, I have done a lot of that work so just making music and hearing my sound is enough to center the sound. A lot of musical issues get taken care of by simply having the horn in hand and spending time making music. It is all very intuitive to me.
If you could say one thing to people interested in specializing in bari sax, what would it be?
There is a misconception that the baritone takes a lot more air and that you have to play slower or fewer notes or perhaps play more simply on baritone. I think it probably does take some more air, but if the setup is right I think it is possible to do all of the same things on baritone that other sax players are doing.
Those who know of Leo Parker know he has influenced many modern baritonists, despite not having wide recognition for most jazz listeners. The Jazzwax.com blog has put together an excellent article about Leo Parker and some of his records as a leader, including some interesting back story to the true composers of Miles Davis’ supposed song “Walkin'”. There is also some excellent info on Gene Ammons’, one of Leo’s frequent collaborators. If you aren’t familiar with Leo Parker, this is a great place to start.
In a lesson with Ronnie Cuber, I once asked him if he like Leo Parker. He laughed and told me that he couldn’t listen to Leo Parker or he would start trying to sound too much like him! I guess that is as close to a compliment as he would go. Gary Smulyan and almost every other baritonist of note seems to speak highly of him as well.
Leo Pellegrino (better known as Leo P, and not to be confused with Leo Parker), was recently featured in a tv performance with the BBC. Check out the video below. The dancing might arguably be more impressive than the playing, but its fairly fun to watch and exciting to see people actually appreciate the baritone sax on a fairly wide scale.
The saxophone intro and dancing are especially impressive. The performance eventually leads into an arrangement of the classic baritone saxophone feature by Charles Mingus, ‘Moanin’. The arrangement is very similar to the Mingus Band’s albeit with the addition of the well known Metropole Orchestra and a nice trumpet solo from Christian Scott. Leo seems to be channeling quite a bit of Ronnie Cuber in the rendition, although even in his younger days I don’t believe Ronnie was that fleet of foot.
Cincinnati based baritone saxophonist, Larry Dickson sent us another album, . Much like the first one, this album has an excellent mix of songs. About half originals and a mix of standards, lesser known composers, and a Strayhorn-Ellington piece. The arrangements are very swinging and tasteful, the band’s playing and the recording quality is quite professional. I especially enjoyed Larry’s originals compositions. They have the feeling of classic swinging tunes, but are completely new to the ear.
Trombonist, Bill Gemmer has a number of really great solo moments as well, with an excellent mix of beautiful tone and plenty of agility on the trombone. Larry’s playing at times reminds me very favorably of Ronnie Cuber, especially on Weep. Mulligan fans will recognize this tune as one of the more memorable from the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band. And other times I am reminded of Gary Smulyan’s deep edged tone, but really what we’re hearing is Larry’s sound that has been honed through years of dedication to the baritone saxophone in a jazz setting. And for that we are grateful. If you get a chance, I’d recommend getting a copy of “Summergold Promises” for yourself and any fan of the jazz baritone sax.