Digging into the boisterous side of the tenor sax

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Saxophonist Paul Duffy has been influenced mightily by the “Texas tenor" style of saxophone- the brawny, honking, at-times boisterous R&B-tinged sound made famous by Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Buddy Tate, David “Fathead" Newman and King Curtis. That's quite a stretch for a versatile musician who grew up- and developed his passion for jazz- in Dublin, Ireland.

That sound was on fine display on Friday, December 7, in the South County Jazz Club's matinee concert series in Venice FL. Duffy's quartet featured the leader on tenor and alto saxophones, trumpet and vocals, Matt Bokulic on piano, Patrick Bettison on bass and Johnny Moore on drums. With range and soulfulness, Duffy's singing was also a strength throughout the program.

The afternoon's material hopscotched through the Great American Songbook and the jazz canon to The Beatles and Hoagy Carmichael.

Given the holiday season at hand, Duffy's instrumental opener on Duke Ellington's “Don't Get Around Much Anymore" included fleeting references to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and later in his solo, to “Jingle Bells."

Bokulic quickly got into the spirit in another way. On “They Can't Take That Away From Me," the pianist seamlessly dropped in a line from “How are Things in Glocca Mora?" from the 1947 Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow.

Favorite moments:
  • The band's take on Dizzy Gillespie's “A Night in Tunisia" brought to the fore the depth and passion in Duffy's tenor sax style.
  • Duffy switched back and forth between the tenor and his trumpet,on Herbie Hancock's “Cantaloupe Island," often starting a musical phrase with one and ending with the other.
  • Bettison was featured beautifully on jazz harmonica on “The Days of Wine and Roses."
  • Mongo Santamaria's “Watermelon Man" saw Duffy dig out his alto sax for a novel treatment of the tune, riffing the melody on alto and tenor sax simultaneously but shifting back to tenor for his solos. It was well done, as in this case, done sparingly. You wouldn't want to hear a full afternoon if it.
  • The quartet's version of Wayne Shorter's jazz chestnut “Footprints" was a tour de force, reflecting just how locked in the four players were on this gig.
The afternoon at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice closed with the band's swinging take on “Danny Boy." Not a surprise given Duffy's roots. What many may find surprising is that he only learned traditional Irish music after he moved here in the early 1980s and opened a Sarasota bar called the Irish Rover.

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
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