Hal McKusick


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The Rifftides staff has no more intention of making this blog a birthday watch than of making it a death watch, although there is an endless supply of both phenomena. However, on the Jazz West Coast listserve, Desne Villepigue pointed out that yesterday was the eighty-fourth anniversary of Hal McKusick's appearance in the world, and that is worth noting. McKusick was one of the most rewarding alto saxophone soloists of the fifties and sixties. He is still active as a player, teacher and inspirer of young musicians.

The screen below brings you his 1958 recording of Charlie Parker's “Now's The Time." There was no movie camera in the studio; we should be so lucky. The visuals are album covers. This arrangement for four saxophones incorporates a harmonized transcription of Parker's solo on the original 1945 Savoy recording of the piece. It predates by fourteen years Supersax, the group that became famous for this sort of thing. The other saxophonists are Frank Socolow, alto; Dick Hafer, tenor; and Jay Cameron, baritone. Solos are by McKusick, pianist Bill Evans and bassist Paul Chambers. The drummer Connie Kay. Contrary to YouTube's information, trumpeter Art Farmer is not present.

Farmer is on several other tracks of the CD, which is a cross-section of music from McKusick's fine series of albums for Decca. To learn more about McKusick, see Marc Myers' series of interviews with him on JazzWax.

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