Dave Schildkraut: Key Ingredient

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Alto saxophonist Dave Schildkraut didn't record on a bad album. Except perhaps his own leadership session, at the tail end of his recording career in 1979. By then, he sounded coarse and tapped out. But if you look through his discography and listen to the recordings, the New York jazz session player managed to draw only aces. There isn't a dud in the bunch. Not even a slightly sub-par jazz recording.

Schildkraut's sound was routinely and somewhat unfairly compared to Charlie Parker's. While his alto was edgy, bluesy and seamless, his sound really was his own. Which is why so many great New York players recruited him for their sessions—to add his key ingredient.

To quote bassit Chuck Israels's recent email on Schildkraut:

Dave made relatively few recordings compared to his contemporaries, and by the time I got a chance to play with him, he was a shadow of his former self. From what pianist Bill Triglia told me (I didn’t know Schildkraut well), he was a shy guy who just couldn’t tolerate the competitive world. Like Gigi Gryce, he was not constitutionally built to live comfortably in it.

Yet Schildkraut was special. I can listen to Art Pepper and like what I'm hearing once without wanting to hear it again. Schildkraut is rewarding over multiple listenings. And lacking the romance of a jazz musician's drug struggles and drama, hardly anyone today knows of Dave’s quality or contribution.

Since I have Dave Schildkraut's entire discography, minus his many road recordings with Stan Kenton, here are 11 tracks that feature his masterful solos. For those readers who aren't musicians, Schildkraut's sax is the high-toned one:

Here he is with Miles Davis playing Solar in 1954...



Here's Schildkraut on George Handy's A Tight Hat, from Handyland USA in 1954...



Here he is behind Tony Bennett, on one of the singer's hippest albums, Cloud 7, soloing on I Can't Believe You're in Love With Me, in 1954...



Here's Schildkraut soloing on Gone With the Wind, arranged and conducted by Pete Rugolo, in 1954...



Here's Schildkraut soloing on Chuckles from Oscar Pettiford's Basically Duke, in 1954...



Here's Schildkraut soloing on Cool Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, on Ralph Burns's Jazz Studio 5, in 1955...



Here's Schildkraut soloing on Blue Beetle from Eddie Bert's album Like Cool, in 1955...



Here's Schildkraut soloing on Phil Urso's P.U. Stomp, from Buddy Arnold's Wailin' album in 1956...

P.U. Stomp

Here's Schildkraut soloing on Tiny—Not Ghengis, on Tito Puente's Puente Goes Jazz in 1956...



Here's Schildkraut soloing on Strictly Confidential from Sam Most's Plays Bird, Bud, Monk & Miles in 1957...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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