Saturday, August 26, 2006

Serge Chaloff: Body & Soul, April 4, 1955


The standard ballad “Body and Soul” has long been a common musical podium where jazz improvisers step up to make their own signature testament – not necessarily with that intent, but certainly with an awareness of the different takes on it that have come before.

My personal favorite is baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff’s version from his “Boston Blow Up” record. As I see it, Hawkins, Rollins, Coltrane and the rest need to step aside for this one.

Chaloff’s statement; alternatively tender, raw and harrowing – like someone suddenly overcome with memories of a love affair long put aside in the interest of “carrying on”.
Serge stood apart from other baritonists (ie. Mulligan, Pepper Adams, Cecil Payne etc.) in that he consistently chose to play the full range of the instrument high to low. The varying textures in different registers give drama to the change in dynamics and emotion in his “story line”.
There are times when he moves too suddenly from a gentle line to a harsh, blasted note. Having heard this version a thousand times over 30 odd years, I now anticipate it and prepare myself, but in the totality of the song it makes perfect sense – it almost breaks from “music” and becomes a voiced, unpremeditated confession.

Serge tops off his masterpiece, ending the with a short a cappella cadenza: he descends deftly down a stony stairway after having made his statement on the windy heights and jumps headlong into the bottom Bb – disappearing into a jazz eternal night, leaving naught but the ripples.
(did I just say that?)

* 2 landmark records of Serge have been released in one cd package by Definitive records out of Spain: his masterpiece, Blue Serge – with Sonny Clark, Philly Joe Jones, and Leroy Vinnegar; together with Boston Blow Up (with a stellar cast of Boston bebop players of the time), not as great in its totality but worth it just for Body and Soul

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

started out talking about the incredible string band, jansch, renbourne, alan stivell...took a turn to guitarists barney kesell (sp),pat martino and the like...then there was that summer of bix, soon after, bird flew in,ahhhh prez and the lady day,bill evans came to visit for awhile one autumn...but, serge, yeah, serge always put a little something else when you lingered there in that sound

Anonymous said...

man, i love it when i see renbourne spelled with the "e" on the end. that is as i should be, whether john knows it or not...

thanks for the names unfurled that always tingle the lobes...

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Anonymous said...

And it looks like you reviewed Blue Serge on Amazon, too, Lefty! I gotta check this cat out. Baritone sax rocks. (or is that 'swings'...)

It's a good thing too - with that cheesed up album cover of the chick with the sax and some mannequin, I would have passed this one over in the record store.

-matthew

Anonymous said...

Yeah - but i dig that cover! pure 50's.
i was gonna put out another blog on Serge that will tell a little more about him with that picture included. I'll wait til i can go a few more blogs without any mention of illegal substances.