Tag: gary smulyan

3 new transcriptions from Anthony Pellegrini!

Transcription contributor, Anthony Pellegrini

Veteran transcription contributor, Anthony Pellegrini, has just delivered 3 more transcriptions. And they are fine choices. Gary Smulyan, Ronnie Cuber, and Harry Carney are all included here.

Ronnie’s solo is on “Hardbop Grandpop” from a amazing Horace Silver album of the same name. Gary Smulyan’s transcription is from a less known album by Michael Benedict called Bopitude and is over a Kenny Dorham song called “An Oscar for Oscar”. And finally the father of the jazz baritone saxophone is represented here with his solo on “Festival Junction” from the famous Duke Ellington album recorded Live at Newport.

Head on over to the Transcriptions page to download copies of all 3 for yourself!

A new album with Gary Smulyan and Ronnie Cuber!

It seems pretty undisputed that Gary Smulyan and Ronnie Cuber are two of the greatest living titans of the baritone saxophone. They each have a long discography and incredible career. And we are fortunate to have a new album out this week that features both of them. This isn’t the first time they’ve played together or even recorded together. The album ‘Three Baritone Band Plays Mulligan’ is listed on my 5 essential listening albums page and feature both Gary and Ronnie – as well as Nick Brignola. Interestingly that band toured a bit and the great Howard Johnson could also sometimes be seen with that band.

‘Tough Baritones’ was released this week on the Danish SteepleChase label, on which you will also find a number of other records from both Gary and Ronnie. Though I find it incredibly difficult to find any actual information about this label, or about the albums. Almost like the label goes out of its way to make sure very little information can be found even after the albums are released for sale. But regardless, the album is available on streaming platforms, or if you’re like me and enjoy a physical copy that can be found on amazon here.

This album to me is very reminiscent of a period of jazz that had a huge influence on both of the leaders here. The whole album, but especially the first couple tracks bring back the vibe of Leo Parker recordings, and some of the great two saxophone albums with the likes of Jug (Gene Ammons) and Stitt (Sonny Stitt). This is largely reflected in the tune choice and feel of those songs. A lot of singing blueses and almost boogaloo type feels, as well as some classic Cuber favorite standards – ‘Nica’s Dream’ and ‘Lover’. No sign of a ballad in sight, but that’s just as well since we’re all here for the fire anyways.

If I am going to be incredibly objective, I’d say that Ronnie’s playing doesn’t quite have the fire that he may have had in his prime, but he is by no means at all unenjoyable here. He plays with fire and still shows why he has been one of the leading influences on the baritone for decades. Also if we are going to compare him to most 78 year old saxophonists, he is probably nearly the best in the world. Gary’s playing is top notch and while connoisseurs of the baritone will easily tell their styles apart, they both approach the music with considerable force.

Recording quality wise, having been fortunate to sit right in front of both of their bells in person, it seems to me that the recording captured Gary’s sound a bit more accurately. Ronnie’s mix on the record feels a little distantly recorded. Otherwise the sound of the album is excellent, the two baritonists are panned separately left (Cuber) and right (Smulyan) to help differentiate further. They got a great rhythm section to back the front men. Gary Versace on piano, Jay Anderson on bass, and Jason Tiemann on drums.

I think anyone with an interest in jazz or baritone saxophone, (let alone those at this site that are likely interested in both) should probably head directly to their nearest music provider and check out this album from the royalty of jazz bari sax.

Two ‘In a Mellow Tone’ Solos!

Thanks to Joseph Trahan we have another Gary Smulyan solo in the transcription repository. This is from another YouTube video, this time Gary is blowing over Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone“.

We also now have our very first Joe Temperley solo in the repository. I can’t believe we didn’t have one before now, but thankfully that gap has at least somewhat been filled. Many thanks to Tom Sabin, for sending in a transcription to start us off for Joe. Quite coincidentally this solo is also on Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone“!

This is a pretty cool opportunity to see how two very different players approach the same standard. I hope everyone is staying well and busy during the on-going quarantine. Hopefully the plethora of new transcriptions will keep you all busy.

New and upcoming releases – May 2020 edition

There are a number of albums on the horizon or available now that everyone might be interested in. So in order of release please check out the following:

Brian Landrus – For Us

Brian’s new release features one hell of a band (Fred Hersch – piano, Drew Gress – bass, Billy Hart – drums, Michael Rodriguez – trumpet) as well as Brian playing his usual baritone and a host of other instruments. The album also features some string writing. What I’ve heard so far sounds excellent! So fans of modern writing for the baritone should definitely check this one out. Its available now, grab a copy here from Brian’s website.


Gary Smulyan – Our Contrafacts

Gary’s next album is another trio recording. I am very much looking forward to this one, which is a follow up to his last trio recording “Alternative Contrafacts that I enjoyed very much. Gary excels at trio playing – he is a master of harmony and the chordless setting really allows him to dictate all of the harmony very freely.

The album has listed release date of June 2020, but it looks like it might be available already? Head over to Gary’s site to check it out.


Ronnie Cuber – Four, Straight Street

Finding information on Ronnie can be hard these days. He doesn’t have a working website, and the record company (SteepleChase) that he has put some recordings out on doesn’t either. He’s also approaching 80 (78 as of now) and hasn’t been seen out performing as much, certainly not in the US. But he does seem to have produced a few recordings recently. The two most recent are “Four” and “Straight Street“, I believe from 2019. Fans of Ronnie will enjoy these as its still a powerful baritonist with a big sound and lots of edge.

However, I have to say this is not peak Ronnie Cuber. I don’t say this to be harsh, the man has played more baritone than pretty much anyone else alive. But I do want to warn fans to perhaps temper their expectations, and know that there are other recordings of Ronnie that better capture his incredible playing. Having grown up listening to him constantly, and even taken some (very strange) lessons with him, I’m glad we have more recordings of him even if they aren’t going to go down in history as his best.

Gary Smulyan & Frank Basile Quintet shows available for stream!

A few weeks ago at Smalls club in the West Village of New York City, I had the extreme pleasure or watching two sets that featured some of the best baritone playing around. Gary Smulyan & Frank Basile are two incredible baritone saxophonists that are directly connected to the Pepper Adams lineage.

Everyone can now watch both evenings (4 sets total) on the online streaming archive from Smalls – called SmallLive. You’ll need to sign up for a membership, but $10 a month is a small price for the incredible amount of live jazz you’ll have access to. This concert alone had a $20 cover per set to see. Also, in these strange times Musicians and Clubs need all the support they can get – Smalls shares revenue from online streaming with the musicians.

Head over to the Smalls Live archive and watch these incredible sets:
https://www.smallslive.com/events/16554-frank-basile-gary-smulyan-quintet-boss-baritones/

In depth review and interview on Gary Smulyan’s latest album

The Jazz Profiles blog has posted a very in depth and interesting article on Gary Smulyan‘s latest album, “Alternative Contrafacts

The post is worth a read and the album is definitely worth a listen. I think this is one of Gary’s best albums, especially in trio format.

Head on over and read the article to learn more about contrafacts and Gary’s album.