One of jazz's greatest living baritone saxophonists brings a tribute to the great jazzmen from the 1950s
RONNIE CUBER - A TRIBUTE TO THE PAST: RONNIE
One of jazz's greatest living baritone saxophonists, Ronnie Cuber, is a powerful player with complete control of his horn in both the upper and lower registers. ( Music Hound Jazz-The Essential Album Guide (p. 291)
The latest Ronnie Cuber album, entitled just simply Ronnie, was released last year by SteepleChase records ( SCCD 31680)
The album, which he recorded a year ago, is dedicated to the late 1950s and early 1960s - to the period of the great jazz labels like Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside. It was the period when Miles Davis organized his great quintets and Ronnie remembers how he joined the concerts of the Miles Davis Quintet as a teenager. Born in December 1941 he remembers the great 1956 series of Prestige albums, all recorded in Rudy Van Gelder's studio's in Hackensack NJ on the 26th of October, 1956, as a pivotal point in his life. Miles had to make four albums to work off his contract obligations for Prestige, as he had signed a contract for Columbia. He recorded that day enough tracks to fill four Prestige albums, like Steamin', Relaxin', Cookin and Workin': a great series of early Miles Davis albums.
Ronnie by the Ronnie Cuber Quartet, featuring Ronnie Cuber on baritone - Helen Sung piano - Boris Kozlov bass and Johnathan Blake drums ( SteepleChase SCCD 31680)
Ronnie remembers when he first heard Miles Davis in a concert at the Café Bohemia around the mid 1950s - the period before Coltrane and Philly joined the quintet, but with Sonny Rollins and Red Garland or Tommy Flanagan. He also remembers the famous 1960 Miles Davis Sextet well, featuring Johnny Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmie Cobb. Those guys didn't have anything written down or overly planned. Miles would just a call a tune and they would take it from there, Ronnie remembers, I guess the arrangements evolved over time. But it was a very different feel to, say, Horace Silver, who had performances worked out, fully arranged and with little unison passages inserted between and even within solos. ( liner notes written by Mark Gardner).
(photo courtesy: Rene Dissel)( thanks to Roberta Arnold)
Ronnie makes his debut on baritone saxophone ( the band didn't need a tenor player) while playing in the Newport Youth Band at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival which was recorded by Coral. In the early 1960s he played with Slide Hampton and Maynard Ferguson, who led one of the finest big bands of his career in that period. During the second half of the 1960s and 70s he toured with Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Eddie Palmieri and George Benson. In 1976 he formed a quartet with Barry Harris, Sam Jones and Albert Tootie Heath which recorded the album Cuber Libre ! This album learned the world what a great baritone saxophonist Ronnie was. In 1979 he made a record with Dutchman Rein De Graaff with a quintet which featured Tom Harrell on trumpet and flugelhorn and Rein, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes in the rhythm section. It was released as New York Jazz ( Timeless CD SJP 130) In 1993-1994 Ronnie joined Rein in The Netherlands as part of his Baritone Explosion project, which resulted in some great baritone battles between Ronnie and Nick Brignola. ( Rein De Graaff Trio with Ronnie Cuber and Nick Brignola ( Timeless CD SJP 431)). Nowadays Ronnie Cuber is a member of the Mingus Big Band, where he plays with Helen Sung and Boris Kozlov, present in the rhythm section of his latest album Ronnie.
In the mean time Ronnie made several records under his own name like Cubism, Airplay and The Scene Is Clean ( with Geoff Keezer), In A New York Minute ( with Kenny Drew) and a great album, Love For Sale with the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra. In Ronnie he invited Helen Sung and Boris Kozlov, both members of the Mingus Big Band. With the latter he loved to jam: When bassist Boris Kozlov and myself were with the Mingus Big Band, we would often jam together backstage, and we would frequently find ourselves playing Gloria Step as a duo because it's kind of challenging and keeps you thinking. Gloria's Step is one of the ten tracks of the album. It's a tune, which isn't played often. It was originally composed by Scottt LaFaro and recorded by Bill Evans, but Miles and his men got that tune down to perfection. Most tracks on the album are 1960s standards like Thermo written by the late Freddie Hubbard, a tune, Ronnie says, that should get further recognition. Ronnie during a rehearsel with the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra. ( photo thanks to Roberta Arnold)
Personally I like Ronnie's version of Clifford Brown 1954 Daahoud and Ah Leu Cha, a seldom heard and hard to play Charlie Parker composition.
I remember how I was fascinated hearing someone play the baritone saxophone. I listened to Gerry Mulligan 1954 Salle Pleyel concert more then a hundred times, before I learned about other great instrumentalists like Adrian Rollini, Serge Challof, Leo Parker and Pepper Adams. Most of them are gone now. Ronnie Cuber learns how to play this instrument
in both the lower as the upper registers and brings a tribute to the 1950s of Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside. The Keep Swinging blog points you to his latest album: Ronnie - a must-have for all baritone saxophone lovers.
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