March 10, 2008
Fresh Sound
Jazz, Bop, Hard Bop

Album Review

In his early days as a great jazz baritone saxophonist, quintessential sideman Cecil Payne played much more sweet and refined music than the rough and tumble bopper Pepper Adams or the more sophisticated Gerry Mulligan. These sessions as a leader, in tandem with the underrated pianist Duke Jordan, show a more sweet and innocent player on a horn known for brusque and burly tones. It might be misleading in modern times to call Payne a smooth player, but all potential coarse edges in his sound were filed away, and he displayed fluency and an even-keeled discipline one has to admire. The bulk of these recordings are from 1956, originally on the Signal label LP Cecil Payne and the Savoy release Patterns of Jazz, in a quartet or quintet setting, the latter complemented by trumpeter Kenny Dorham. A lilting -- yes lilting -- baritone sax sound for "This Time the Dream's on Me" sets the tone from the outset, but Payne goes right to the heart with the ballad "How Deep Is the Ocean?" A member of fellow Brooklynite Randy Weston's band, Payne pays homage with the lyrical midtempo swinger "Chessman's Delight," and with the perfectly paired Dorham on classic dotted eighth-note phrasings during "Saucer Eyes." At heart a bopper, Payne and Jordan, with the trumpeter, hit up their original "Man of Moods," Payne's fleet Charlie Parker-ish "Bringing Up Father," and the Dizzy Gillespie classic "Groovin' High." Five tracks from 1962, which include trumpeter Johnny Coles, sound different, and display the developing irregular fringes of Payne's bari. Coles uses a muted trumpet on the ballad "Yes, He's Gone" playing the second chorus of the melody after Payne's deeper inflections, and Payne lays out for the muffled horn of Coles to take center stage on Jordan's slow, wispy "Tall Grass." The quintet again adopts Parker's fervor on the perfectly played "Dexterity," while the leader's composition "Like Church" echoes the era's signature sound à la Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the Miles Davis group with John Coltrane, or Coles/Dorham peer Donald Byrd. Too few Cecil Payne recordings are available in this world, and though this is a transitional period for him, it is essential listening if you are a student of the big-bad horn.
Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. This Time the Dream's on Me
  2. How Deep Is the Ocean
  3. Chessman's Delight
  4. Arnetta
  5. Saucer Eyes
  6. Man of Moods
  7. Bringing Up Father
  8. Groovin' High
  9. Yes, He's Gone
  10. Dexterity
  11. I'm Gonna Learn Your Style
  12. Like Church
  13. Tall Grass
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