Various Artists

Tenor Sax Ballads (Priceless Jazz Collection)

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GRP has cobbled together a set of performances from labels it now has under its umbrella, such as Impulse and Cadet, as well as from albums released under its own name. There's no intent here to put together a survey of the development of the tenor saxophone. Rather, this album is an unabashed effort to attract those who celebrate good tenor sax playing in general, and ballad sax in particular -- and it works. If there were a hall of fame for tenor sax players, all the performers present on this disc would have been inaugural inductees. Coleman Hawkins, the first true tenor sax improviser, is represented with "Solitude" and "Mood Indigo" from the memorable recording he made with Duke Ellington; an added treat on "Solitude" is the fine violin playing of Ray Nance. John Coltrane's inimitable ballad style is put on display with "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "It's Easy to Remember," an effort by the Impulse label to make Coltrane more "popular" with jazz fans. The playing of the tenor saxophone's psalm, "Body and Soul," is awarded to Paul Gonsalves, who follows the improvisational path that Hawkins took on his 1939 recording. Ben Webster, James Moody, Sonny Stitt, Illinois Jacquet, and the soul-laden horn of Stanley Turrentine are also present. Turrentine's rendition of "Deep Purple" is a highlight of the album, as is Jacquet's languid rendering of "You're My Thrill." A priceless set of performances by major practitioners of the tenor saxophone. Heartily recommended.

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