The saxophonists Jeff Rupert and George Garzone inform us that The Ripple of this title refers to what was first created by the legendary Lester Young when he gave us his unforgettable music. It is a timely reminder for what we are often hearing over the airwaves is made of melodies, harmonies and complex and experimental rhythms. There is no suggestion here that contemporary experimental music has – or should have – no place in the sonic world around us for that would stifle and choke the impulse within the artist. But Jazz is nothing if the ancestors of the great tradition are not held up like icons, first and foremost and front and centre for all to acknowledge – if not all the time, then certainly with regularity.
In the realm of the tenor saxophone, no one becomes more deserving of the deepest adulation than Lester Young – the Prez or The President. Even Charlie Parker, one of the greatest ever inventors of melody, harmony and rhythm adored Mr Young, as did almost every other tenor-playing saxophonist, pianist, trumpeter, vocalist… indeed every musician who played with him, heard him and came after him. The Ripple that Prez created became a flood that resulted in the surging waters of everything from Swing, Bebop and Cool.
In fact, long before The Cool of Miles Davis came The Cool of Prez, who had the ability to make every musician swoon; from Billie Holiday to Jimmy Rushing; from Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and from Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and Gene Ammons to Frank Foster, Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano… and now Jeff Rupert and George Garzone too; all of whom have always played themselves, of course.
Mr Rupert and Mr Garzone can play from on the edge as well. But on Ripple while paying homage to Prez and the music that was popular in his day they play in the tradition – two tenor titans dueling as the duet like strains of the some “polynucleotide” strand, derived from the same DNA as Prez and the other musicians and tenor saxophonists. The repertoire here is special too. It is not all necessarily what you would say was “straight out of the Great American Songbook”, but it is all in the tradition. And it is meant to be one almost hour-long and tender love-letter to Lester Young.
“Stardust” and “The Shadow of Your Smile” are special ballads in which the tenors masterfully craft long inventions that flow into one another in a series of gorgeous ellipses. Wayne Shorter’s “Lester Left Town” is a classic doffing of the proverbial hat to Prez from one of the greatest living musicians and practitioners of the tenor horn and it is played with mighty glissandos and superb harmonic runs that rush and tumble one after the other.
The tenors are joined here by an incomparable group of musicians: pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Jeremy Allen and the inimitable Marty Morell, all of whom are completely attuned to the vision and artistry of the two tenors and to the music of Lester Young, who is being felicitated here. This is a masterful history lesson from the two musicians and tenor saxophonists and its dénouement could not be better expressed than through an eloquent duet… And so, by the time we get to “Alone Together” the Ripple has become a flood not simply an unforgettable homage to Prez but all tenors and all musicians in the Jazz Tradition, what we have is, quite simply, something to die for.
Track list – 01: Bahia; 02: Go-Go; 03: Stardust; 04: Without a Song; 05: The Shadow of Your Smile; 06: Detour Ahead; 07: The Red Door; 08: Red Top; 09: Hoboken; 10: Beauty Becomes Her; 11: Lester Left Town; 12: Alone Together
Personnel – Jeff Rupert: tenor saxophone; George Garzone: tenor saxophone; Richard Drexler: piano; Jeremy Allen: bass; Marty Morell: drums
Released – 2020
Label – RUPE MEDIA
Runtime – 48:30