Chu Berry

A Giants of the Tenor Sax

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This Commodore material reissued as an LP culls out tracks from sessions headed by others, but which feature tenor saxophonists Chu Berry and Lucky Thompson. The Chu Berry cuts come from separate Roy Eldridge and Hot Lips Page sets. Hot Lips Page also led the group, which included the Lucky Thompson tracks heard here. Berry was killed at the age of 31 in a car accident. Although he spent most of his performing career in someone else's sax section, there's no telling what heights he might have reached if he lived longer. His version of "Body and Soul" on this album was recorded 11 months to the day prior to Coleman Hawkins', the man usually given the credit for "setting the saxophone free." Yet Berry was as improvisational as Hawkins would later be. In fact, Hawkins probably heard the Berry recording and used its ideas a year later. Hawkins was 35 when he recorded his famous rendition; Berry was just 28 when he cut his interpretation, which was never accorded the same magnitude of acknowledgment. This track also features some hot trumpet by Eldridge. Berry also shows his incredible technique on "Stardust." Thompson has four cuts to Berry's nine, but he makes the most of his time. His big, fat tenor sound dominates the four tracks he's on, all tunes by Page. He went on to lead many of his groups, making a name for himself on the center of the jazz universe, 52nd Street in N.Y.C., before moving to Europe where he achieved even greater success. Unfortunately, his later life was marred by mental problems. This fine album has been transferred to CD and is a testimonial to two top tenor saxophone players whose respective careers were shortened by different types of calamitous circumstances.

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