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Album Review

Charlie Parker's love affair with strings, most notably during the 1950s for Verve Records, made it acceptable for other saxophonists to undertake similar projects. After all, if a player of the magnitude of Parker can indulge, than it must be OK for everyone else. Gary Smulyan, who was a member of the Charles Mingus Big Band, undertook the daunting task of linking the deep, robust sound of a baritone with a string section without creating more than sugar-coated boredom. With the help of Bob Belden's charts, that musical objective is achieved. The deep sound and rich color unique to the baritone is used to good effect on such ballads as "The Bad and the Beautiful," "Lush Life," and "Beware My Heart." To avoid being trapped in the sensualness of lush arrangements, Smulyan and Belden offer contrasting, crisper, peppier arrangements and renditions for numbers like "The Moment of Truth." The Latin beat is introduced with "Two for the Seesaw." Strings notwithstanding, the ace rhythm section of Mike LeDonne, Kenny Washington, and Peter Washington remind the listener that this is, after all, a jazz album, and provide support to the Smulyan saxophone within that context. They have an opportunity to stretch out on several of the cuts without any competition from the strings. Smulyan and LeDonne work together with excellent results on "Lush Life" and LeDonne's piano gets extended play on "Two for the Seesaw." A good baritone added to imaginative string arrangements blended with a first-class rhythm section equals a fine album


Born: 04 April 1956 in Bethpage, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

b. 4 April 1956, Bethpage, New York, USA. Smulyan started out playing alto saxophone while still very young before changing to the baritone saxophone. In high school he was encouraged to look to jazz as a means of self-expression and he went on to sit in with several noted touring musicians, including Chet Baker, Lee Konitz and Jimmy Knepper. In the mid- to late 70s he studied at SUNY-Potsdam and Hofstra University before joining Woody Herman in 1978. In addition to playing at many venues in the...
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Gary Smulyan With Strings, Gary Smulyan
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