Sometimes fate does not distribute her gifts based on merit. Jack Nimitz never achieved the recognition, popularity or record sales of Gerry Mulligan, Pepper Adams or Serge Chaloff. Nonetheless, he was fully their peer as a baritone saxophonist of the post-bop era. Nimitz died last week in Los Angeles at the age of 79. From the early 1950s in Washington, DC, with The Orchestra, through the bands of Bob Astor, Johnny Bothwell, Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, Nimitz was a sturdy anchor of reed sections and a soloist of power and creativity.
After he moved to Los Angeles in the early sixties, Nimitz was a first-call baritone player in studios and on a dozen or more big bands, including those of Benny Carter, Gerald Wilson, Terry Gibbs, Oliver Nelson and Frank Capp. He was a charter member of Super Sax, the saxophone band that specialized in orchestrated Charlie Parker solos. Nimitz is on scores of other peoples' albums, but did not release a CD as a leader until 1995 with Confirmation. That recording is out of print or, as the record company's web site optimistically announces, temporarily out of stock."
Fortunately, his second CD, Yesterday and Today, is available. It teamed Nimitz with another neglected master, the trombonist Bill Harris and, five decades later, with a rising young player of Nimitz's own instrument. From a 2008 Rifftides review:
Jack Nimitz, Yesterday And Today (Fresh Sound). Yesterday" was 1957, when the distinctive baritone saxophonist recorded a long-playing album for ABC-Paramount. The LP sat unissued for half a century. Today" was early last year, when Nimitz went into the studio to record new music to add to the 1957 material and round out a compact disc. Nimitz's tone has more heft and his soloing more aggressiveness than fifty years ago. In both instances, his playing is superb.
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Jack Nimitz, RIP.
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