There aren't many saxophonists who can pull off an album like The Candy Men
(Arbors), a new release from Harry Allen's All Star New York Saxophone Band. The album is easily one of my favorites of the year. While I wrote the liner notes, you should know that I only write the notes to albums I love and I don't make a dime off of sales. So whether or not the album is a bestseller is not my concern. I'm just responsible here for hipping you to the very best in all types of music and justifying my choices.
Who are the reed-section gunslingers on this album? Harry Allen (ts), Grant Stewart (ts), Eric Alexander (ts) and Gary Smulyan (bs). As you know, all are gorgeous players, superb sight-readers and soulful soloists. The saxophone quartet is supported by Rossano Sportiello (p), Joel Forbes (b) and Kevin Kanner (d), a spirited and tight rhythm section.
If you love albums by four or more saxophonists playing together in harmony or in unison, this one is right up there with my other sax-centric favorites: The Brothers!—Al Cohn, Bill Perkins and Richie Kamuca
(1955), Al Cohn and the Sax Section
(1956), Zoot Sims Plays Alto, Tenor and Baritone
(1956), Zoot Sims Plays Four Altos
(1956), Reeds in Hi-Fi—Pete Rugolo
(1956), Four Brothers Together Again
(1957), Gerry Mulligan Song Book
(1957), Hymie Schertzer:
All the King's Saxophones (1957), Coleman Hawkins Meets the Big Sax Section
(1958), Cross Section Saxophones—Hal McKusick
(1958), Saxophones Inc.—Bobby Prince and His Orchestra
(1959), Ten Saxophones and Two Basses—Pete Rugolo
(1961), Further Definitions—Benny Carter
(1961), Bud Shank and the Sax Section
(1966), Dave Pell's Prez Conference
(1972-1988) and Marlene VerPlanck Meets Saxomania
(1993). And yes, all of Woody Herman's so-called Four Brothers Band singles.
I've added The Candy Men
to this list. The new album features exceptional blowing and stunning arrangements by Allen (he wrote all of the charts except for Four Brothers,
which Al Cohn re-orchestrated in 1957 for Four Brothers Together Again).
What's truly remarkable is the excellence of these players and Harry's pen. Harry, of course, is deeply into the history of great saxophone recordings from the 1940s and '50s, so he knows his stuff inside and out.
I have given this album at least 35 listens, and in nearly every case, I just let it run over and over again, never tiring of its excitement and heart. By now, you probably realize that The Candy Men
title is hipster code for a great reed section's sound, which is ear candy."
If you download or buy the album, you'll want this solo information:
- Four Brothers—Grant, Harry, Eric and Gary; trading fours: Harry Grant, Eric, Gary and on the break at the end.
- The One for You—Gary, Eric, Grant, Harry.
- How Are Things in Glocca Mora—no solos.
- After You've Gone—Harry, Eric, Gary, Grant. Trading eights: Harry, Eric, Gary, Grant.
- I Wished on the Moon—Grant, Harry, Gary, Eric.
- Blues in the Morning—Eric, Grant, Harry, Gary; trading fours: Eric, Grant, Harry, Gary.
- I Can See Forever—Eric.
- The Red Door—Eric, Grant, Harry, Gary.
- The Candy Men—Harry.
- So There—Harry, Grant, Gary, Eric.
- Nobody's Heart Belongs to Me—Grant.
- The Party's Over—Grant.
Four of my favorite saxophonists on one album—and in perfect harmony. And with a gorgeous trio behind them. Sensational music and a must-own!
JazzWax tracks: You'll find The Candy Men: Harry Allen's All Star New York Saxophone Band here