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Against the Tide

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Album Review

Bud Shank's impressive career is the focus of this nearly two-hour documentary completed in the fall of 2007 and issued the following spring. Centered around a studio session with pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Bob Magnusson, and drummer Joe La Barbera, excerpts of the studio performances are woven into interview snippets with Shank in the studio and in his Tucson, AZ, home, along with comments by each member of the quartet and jazz educator/critic Dr. Herb Wong. Shank discusses his musical history in depth, describing each of his musical instruments (he also played tenor sax for a time) and his formal studies. He reflects on his time playing with Charlie Barnett, Stan Kenton, and Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars; his partnership with Laurindo Almeida (with whom he recorded Brazilian folk tunes well before Stan Getz made his acclaimed bossa nova albums in the early '60s); and his work and friendship with Bob Cooper and Shorty Rogers, both of whom taught him a lot. There are also several television performances with various small groups, all heard in complete (or nearly so) form. Shank also shares his memories of working in various studio sessions (though he was resented by classical musicians), his return to composing after thoughtless discouragement kept him away for years, soundtrack composing, and his teaching in the Port Townsend Workshop for a quarter century. One of the most fascinating parts of the documentary is his discussion of the making of The Lost Cathedral, which blended improvised music in an abandoned cistern with long reverb, which was then edited and mixed into a live performance by a different group to produce the CD.

As the videotaping of the DVD documentary was underway, producer Graham Carter was impressed with Shank's originals in the studio and decided to include all of them in complete form on a bonus CD. His charming bossa nova "Wildflower's Lullaby" contrasts with the demanding twists of the boppish "El Wacko." "The Starduster" is a rhapsodic ballad, while the jaunty "Big Mo" is the final selection made specifically for the documentary. Shank is joined solely by pianist Bill Mays (one of his favorite players) for an inventive stroll through Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley" that takes a lot of liberties. The alto saxophonist guests with the Bill Holman Band in a live performance of Holman's extended blues "The Gift," in which Shank really wails, backed by Holman's superb chart. Shank appears as a guest on flute with Duke Ellington's orchestra (an instrument not regularly utilized in the band until the arrival of Norris Turney) in "The Big Heist," evidently part of the soundtrack to Assault on a Queen. Tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves and clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton are also prominently featured in this exciting vehicle, which is fortunately heard without the later overdubs added by a hapless studio contractor for the film. The last two selections are from 1956, when Shank was a regular with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars, which includes the alto saxophonist's good friend Bob Cooper, pianist Sonny Clark, and drummer Stan Levey. This is easily one of the better jazz documentaries focusing on a single artist and deserving of study by future documentary producers.


Born: May 27, 1926 in Dayton, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Bud Shank began his career pigeonholed as a cool schooler, but those who listened to the altoist progress over the long haul knew that he became one of the hottest, most original players of the immediate post-Parker generation. Lumped in with the limpid-toned West Coast crowd in the '50s, Shank never ceased to evolve; in his later years, he had more in common with Jackie McLean or Phil Woods than with Paul Desmond or Lee Konitz. Shank's...
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Against the Tide, Bud Shank
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Apr 15, 2008

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