Tony Scott (cl), Dick Katz (p), Milt Hinton, Earl May, Percy Heath (b), Philly Joe Jones, Jackie Moffett, Sid Bulkin, Osie Johnson (d)
Reference: FSRCD 850
Bar code: 8427328608503
Tony Scott was arguably the best clarinetist in modern jazz in the 1950s, and these 1953 Quartet recordings for the Brunswick label are among his best. They showcase his warmth, imagination, and complete command of the instrument. Despite this, he won more acclaim from critics and fellow musicians than among jazz audiences, largely because interest in clarinet declined with the advent of bop and faded in popular esteem since the Goodman-Shaw days.
However the music here amply endorses his 1953 recognition as winner of New Star, Clarinet Division, in Down Beats Annual Jazz Critics Poll. It reveals a jazzman with a rare combination of sensitivity, seriousness and an exceptionally sharp sense of humor. Accompanied by a rhythm section with Dick Katzhis sophisticated pianist and arrangerthe veteran and persuasive Milt Hinton on bass, and the forceful Philly Joe Jones on drums on the first session, the group swings superbly. Other talented jazzmen who contributed to Scotts memorable quartet recordings of that year were bassists Earl May and Percy Heath, and drummers Sid Bulkin, Jackie Moffet and Osie Johnson.
Throughout, Scott remained unsurpassed among clarinetists in his astounding ability to improvise linear patterns that build implacably to climaxes that somehow succeed in reconciling surprise with inevitability and always swing brilliantly.
"The 1953 winner of the new star category in Downbeat's jazz critics' poll was Tony Scott (born 1921). He had begun as a Goodman-inspired swing clarinettist working in the New York area during the years of World War Two, before becoming a bop stylist. The February 1953 session heard here, recorded at Minton's Playhouse, though marred slightly by an out-of-tune piano, offers a glimpse of a young reed player with a secure technique, firm tone, modish approach and, as with all of these tracks, accompanied by a strong and swinging rhythm section.
Scott possessed the impressive ability to improvise in the high register and execute musical phrases played across the clarinet range and through the chord changes, rather than merely to deliver high notes as a simple climax. Cupcake has the audience cheering and clapping along - but don't be put off by that information! Here is a compilation that can be highly recommended. Homecoming, with its diminished seventh chord middle, sounds like the Air Mail Special chord progression - a contrafact.
Not meaning to question Scott's deservedness (perish the thought), but one wonders about those Downbeat awards. Presumably, the great Buddy De Franco (born 1923) went unmentioned because he had been already categorised as an established artist, rather than a new star. But what of Jimmy Giuffre (born 1921), or the ill-fated Stan Hasselgård (born 1922)? At the time of this recording, both found themselves playing an instrument (the clarinet) that had suddenly slumped in popularity. Booklet notes are generous in quantity and quality, in Fresh Sounds usual admirable style."
-John Robert Brown (Jazz Journal, April 2015)
"Once upon a time, the most popular instrument in jazz was the clarinet. It was the sound of New Orleans traditional songs, introduced to us by the likes of Sidney Bechet and Johnny Dodds, and then segued easily into the swing era with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman calling in the minions. Then came bebop, which was deemed too difficult for the unyielding licorice stick, and only a few undaunted individuals dared to try to conquer the modern jazz world armed with the ebony wand. One of them, Tony Scott, is almost forgotten today, but if you want to hear what a real clarinet can sound like in a modern jazz setting, then step right up.
During the time of these recordings, which take place in 1953, Scott was a highly in-demand session player, recording a number of times for Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, even using a young Bill Evans as a side man for one of his own recordings! Heres hes caught here in a series of intimate concerts ranging from Mintons Playhouse in Harlem to the Pythian Temple in NYC. Scott leads a variety of quartets with a rotating team that includes Dick Katz/p Milt Hinton-Earl May-Percy Heath/b and Philly Joe J Ones-Jackie Moffett-Jackie Moffett-Osie Johnson/dr. With Jones, the band swings hard on I Never Knew and bears down on Away We Go with Scott searing like a flamethrower. Scott at Fort Monmouth, NJ is gorgeously lyrical on I Cover The Waterfront and veers between bop and swing like hes using mirrors on the exciting Milt to the Hilt and Homecoming. His tone is warmer than Buddy DeFrancos, and while hes not as technically adroit as his fellow Italian, his expressiveness is unparalleled on the moody Yesterdays and Goodbye while sounding coy on Sweet Lorraine.
This disc has some very exciting sounds, and may make you want to take up the clarinet. Quite inspiring!"
-George W. Harris (April 27, 2015)
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