Bobby Jasper

Clarinescapade

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Belgian multi-instrumentalist Bobby Jaspar was hitting his stride in 1956, with great recognition in Europe and a budding reputation in the U.S. via his membership in the J.J. Johnson combo. This CD, a Fresh Sound compilation derived from French Columbia Records LP and EP releases, shows why he was a well-liked and respected cool-to-bop post-Lester Young-influenced tenor saxophonist. The seven tracks where he emphasizes tenor show him breaking away from his influences and exercising voicings of his own, quite similar at that time to peers Stan Getz and Zoot Sims. He ably extrapolates on melodies of the standards "How Deep Is the Ocean" and "I Remember You," and Johnson's hard bopper "Wee Dot," while circling the wagons around the line in an unusual rendition of "I Won't Dance." His fluidity and innate melodic sense are impeccable. The numbers on flute, "Tutti Flutti" and "In a Little Provincial Town," also demonstrate his abilities as a composer, the former bright and sunny with clean unison playing astride masterful Detroit pianist Tommy Flanagan, the latter a near third stream ballad with shining, shimmering modal voicings courtesy of Barry Galbraith. The opener is the title track, a nice bop romp on clarinet, the only tune where he plays the black woodwind, making the title of the CD misleading. Drummer Elvin Jones cements the Detroit connection on the first eight tracks in a more popping, heady, restrained (for him) rhythmic fashion, and it's a rare chance to hear the legendary Nabil Totah on bass in an extended setting. The first ten tracks (eight by quintet and two by quartet formations) were originally on LP, and the last two bop quintet numbers were on EP only. One always wonders if the Manny Albam counterpoint-infused composition "They Lock Alike" was/is misspelled. Shouldn't it be "They Look Alike?" At any rate, this is a first-class date from unsung jazz hero Jaspar, sonically a very well-recorded and remastered effort, and highly recommended.

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