Boots Randolph

Some Favorite Songs

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Boots Randolph was known for much beyond his breakthrough instrumental AM radio hit "Yakety Sax," recording some 50 albums up until his death in 2007. This CD is a new release among the massive Inner City label reissue project, done before Randolph's passing, with a group of veteran musicians he played with in Nashville. Bassist Tim Smith (who also penned the heartfelt liner notes) issued a directive to have Randolph's tenor sax embrace some of his favorite standards, and the overall result proves he could play them skillfully at an advanced age. The usage of synthesizer strings mars some of the tracks, a completely unnecessary sweetening, but the majority of these tunes are rendered faithfully in the acoustic jazz tradition. It's clear when you hear his full, rich tone on "I'm Beginning to See the Light" or "Stompin' at the Savoy" that his influences go back to Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, or even Zoot Sims and Flip Phillips. Then again, he readily acknowledges Don Byas on the ballad/blues "Candy," while a slower take of "Billie's Bounce" and the upbeat "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," in tandem with guitarist Roddy Smith, both pay homage to Charlie Parker. A contemporary, calypso organ combo take of "Dream Dancing" shows Randolph's longstanding studio side, as does "I'll Walk Alone," while his slight vibrato comes to the fore during "L.O.V.E." and "You'll Never Know." It would have been better to hear the nostalgic "As Time Goes By" or "'Round Midnight" without the synthesizer underpinning, though the simulated strings and horns on "Red Sails in the Sunset" and "Embraceable You" are unobtrusive. Smith and drummer Ray VonRotz -- with Randolph for over two decades -- swing the band quite nicely over this entire program. What is important here is that into his late seventies, Boots Randolph could still play rings around other swing-oriented saxophonists much younger than he. Generally dubbed a pop instrumentalist or country performer, he remained a jazzman at heart, as proven on this recording and many others made over a successful and rewarding commercial career.

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