Dale Does Pepper

You know the rap on baritone sax. It’s “cumbersome,” unwieldy” and requires a typhoon’s worth of wind just to air mezzo piano. These are mainly excuses granted to mediocre baritone players of which there are a very few; guys just don’t want to be heard playing an instrument that controls them more than they control it. But the baritone has it positives, most of which have to do with a voice as deep and commanding as James Earl Jones. My favorite baritone players—Charles Davis, Hamiet Bluiett, John Surman–have always been on the outside edges of the music. But I have great respect for Gerry Mulligan, Harry Carney, Serge Chaloff and the others who’ve overcome the instrument’s difficult reputation to make beautiful music, either in ensembles or as lead. Pepper Adams is in a class by himself. His wit and agility with the instrument brought it into the frantic world of bebop and, like the others named here, he knew how to use that hearty tone to full advantage. Dale Fielder’s tribute to Adams not only recalls some of Adam’s ability as an instrumentalist but also as composer. Adams the writer knew the instrument’s place and pushed it and Fielder gives a good representation of Adams’ wide-ranging repertoire here. Witness the sophisticated flair of “Rue Serpentine,” the exoticism of “Enchilada Baby,” the dark-side musings of “Now In Our Lives.” Fielder, who’s known to carry four horns to his gigs, takes to the alto for Adams’ saucy “Bossa Nouveau” and picks up the tenor for a thoughtful “I Carry Your Heart.” Not surprisingly, Fielder’s own cleverly titled tune “Frugal Apathy” carries something of Adams’ spirit and features some of Dale’s most wily playing on the big horn. Fielder’s working quartet—pianist Jane Getz, bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Thomas White–is just that, playing together so frequently that their sound is blended as if by Cuisinart. Getz is especially adept and it’s hard to fantom why she hasn’t been lifted to celebrity status. This live recording is a treat for baritone fans and should satisfy all lovers of solid, mainstream music. Fielder’s tone on bari glows and smolders like the fattest cigar and he’s capable of flicking off the ash to set things flaming. Always a competent musician, Fielder has had trouble getting the big guns of jazz criticism to take him seriously. His baritone abilities just might change that. Available at wwwclarionjazz.com—Cabbage Rabbit

DFQ—Dale Fielder Quartet Plays the Music of Pepper Adams; Clarion Jazz

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