Humming Bird

Paul Gonsalves

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Humming Bird Review

by Ken Dryden

Paul Gonsalves was invited to lead a record date during a visit to England (possibly coinciding with some off hours during a tour with Duke Ellington during the fall of 1969), accompanied by some of the country's top players, including pianists Stan Tracey and Alan Branscombe, trombonist David Horler, and Canadian trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. The tenor saxophonist seems a little uneasy on the two tracks with Tracey, possibly because the material was new and there was little time for rehearsal. From the very beginning, he is a bit uneven, seeming like he is trying to get comfortable with the bossa nova "Humming Bird." In a three-song medley with a different rhythm section, Wheeler is showcased effectively in "Body and Soul," followed by Branscombe's understated feature in "What Is There to Say," and their special guest coming to forefront for "It's the Talk of the Town," though Gonsalves still sounds unsteady. Finally, the tenor saxophonist is on familiar ground with "In a Mellow Tone," which he likely could have played in his sleep. It's hard to pinpoint why these recordings didn't turn out better. Possibly a focus on material more familiar to Gonsalves, additional rehearsal time, or perhaps the lack of a hangover (he was a notorious heavy drinker) might have produced more consistent results.

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