By my count, there are five major jazz tenor-saxophone schools. A school is defined as a particular approach or way of improvising that's so distinct and exceptional other saxophonists adopt it. On my list of tenor saxophonists whose styles became schools are Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Warne Marsh, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Nearly all other tenor players fall into one of these five schools. Marsh's approach is thought of as vertical—meaning he typically charted an improvisational course though a song's chords rather than its melody line. His tone was dry—meaning he avoided vibrato, and he favored the high end of the saxophone's register. What's more, he avoided the blues and stock note patterns known as licks, choosing instead to pioneer a sound by embracing pianist Lennie Tristano's cooler chromatic method of improvisation. [Photo above of Jimmy Halperin]
Though Marsh's unique style wasn't nearly as popular with tenor saxophonists as the other schools listed above, he inspired many contemporary players, including Mark Turner, Ted Brown and Jimmy Halperin. The latter began his recording career in 1986 recording with the Warne Marsh Quintet. In 2001, he recorded Cycle Logical, backed by bassist Don Messina and drummer Bill Chattin, both of whom were students of the Lennie Tristano approach. [Photo above of Don Messina]
Recorded live by Cadence Jazz at the Arts Guild of Rahway, N.J. in 2001, Cycle Logical features the trio working through smart originals, a standard (Everything Happens to Me) and Lee Konitz's Subconcious-Lee and Tristano's 317 East 32nd Street. Halperin's Marsh-flavored ideas flow like satin ribbon being pulled off a spool. Don's bass sails along with firm lines, providing Halperin with competitive support, matching him idea for idea. Meanwhile Chattin lays down a misty spray of figures played on the snare, cymbals and hi-hat. The result is cool bliss.
If you dig Lennie Tristano and Warne Marsh, you'll be blown away by the music created by Jimmy Halperin, Don Messina and Bill Chattin on this album and others. Listening to them and other Marshians, it's gratifying to know that his school still has relevance and is being recorded.
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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