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