Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Jake Fryer/Bud Shank Quintet: In Good Company

Capri Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: In Good Company

Jake Fryer is probably unknown to casual listeners in the States, because he’s a British jazz musician; on the other hand, Bud Shank is a legacy. Both are premier artists on the alto sax, and both are boppers.

During the 1940s, Shank played with both Charlie Barnett and Stan Kenton. Throughout the '50s, Shank was one of the many artists who worked regularly at The Lighthouse, a famous jazz club in Hermosa Beach, California; I lived in that area, and missed very few opportunities to hear him play.

During the last 30 years of his life, Shank led — and worked primarily with — combos; he also added a flute to his instruments and became a staple with studio orchestras along the West Coast.

And although they were oceans apart, Shank was one of the alto sax players who had a major influence on Fryer.

Shank’s discography is huge; it’s difficult to find an artist or band that he didn’t record with. Sadly, this is his final album; he died of pulmonary disease the day after it was recorded. In fact, he was using oxygen periodically during the recording; although that is evident at times, his performance still is exceptional.

The quintet’s excellent rhythm section — pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Joe La Barbera — was one Shank used regularly, and they do a masterful job throughout the session. Fryer not only held his own with Shank, but also composed seven of these nine tracks. Because of Shank’s ill health, there were neither rehearsals nor retakes. The result is comparable to attending a live jam session, and the guys really wailed!

This is a fantastic album.

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