Pete Recommends…The Wardell Gray Story

Wardell Gray

The Wardell Gray Story

[Properbox 55]

 

In the 1950s two of my friends formed an excellent traditional jazz quintet. They played clarinet and soprano sax respectively. Soon they began listening to Lester Young. Both were tempted to take up the tenor sax, but held back. Then they heard Wardell Gray. Lester plus Wardell was too much. They bought tenor saxophones. Dick Heckstall-Smith went on to make a major contribution to our British jazz and blues scene. Derek Moore had an international academic career, but also became a fine amateur tenor player.

This 4 CD Properbox will show you exactly why my friends were so carried away. The booklet, as usual, is an invaluable source for understanding his career, his influences and his musical style. The four CDs cover all but the last three years of his life. All the important sessions are covered, including his early work with Earl Hines, his part in Benny Goodman’s failed bebop experiment and a sample of his recordings with Count Basie. There is a wonderful quartet session with Dodo Marmorosa and two famous ones with Al Haig. Among my favourites are the Tadd Dameron recordings alongside Alan Eager, especially Ladybird, and the final club date with Art Farmer on trumpet. Here we get another example of the powerful rhythm work of Hampton Hawes, which was also captured by the Art Pepper club session on my October recommendation.

 

Peter Batten