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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Boston Blow-Up! - The Serge Chaloff Sextet


Body And Soul

Kenton Presents Jazz
Boston Blow-Up
The Serge Chaloff Sextex
Affinity AFF63 / AE230


Bariton Sax - Serge Chaloff
Alto Sax - Boots Mussulli
Trumpet - Herb Pomeroy
Piano - Ray Santisi
Bass - Everett Evans
Drums - Jimmy Zitano

From the back cover: Chaloff, active for a relatively short time in terms of jazz history, has had a very raw deal, both during his life (unfortunately mainly through his own doing) and since his death in August 1957. In the ensuing period, two decades plus have allowed jazz enthusiasts to concentrate on those of his contemporaries who survived him and the newer stars of the large horn. A classic case of the forgotten man by too many and probably never heard at all by the younger jazz fan.

When this sextet was recorded in was during Serge's slow return to fully active playing which was not until the Spring of '56. Tragically short-lived as it happened because within months he contracted spinal paralysis at first restricting his movements at public appearances to crutches but in another year he was confined to a wheel chair. From this position (or at least seated) he took part incredibly in two record dates, his last in February '57 with three of his cohorts from the Herman 'Brothers' band from 8 or so years earlier; and in September '56 for Verve as a Metronome All Star. This latter had been bitterly ironic some time before when from 1949 until 1953 he topped that magazine's poll yet for four of those years (except a brief stint with the Basie sextet in 1950) Serge was virtually inactive in music, due to an agonizing narcotics problem. He left Woody's band in late '49 already addicted, went home to Boston where he was born in November 1923, to spend the next 6 years rehabilitating. Nevertheless so impressive had his crowded career been beforehand commencing with a period in the experimental Boyd Reborn band in 1945, through the Georgie Auld big band then on to Jimmy Dorsey (there's a wonderful long broadcast version of 'Perdido' of September '46 with Dorsey featuring Chaloff) – that by the time he left a smaller Auld group of bob stars in '47 to join the historic Herman Second Herd, he was indelibly established as the bop baritone soloist.

His first heroes were, naturally, Carney and Jack Washington but coinciding with his decision to cease slavishly following his mentors and forge a style of his own, the colossal impact of Parker and the be-boppers was upon him. That he was able to deliver the bop message with such panache and be so decisively different from what had gone before was probably a combination of circumstances. Firstly he was already a virtuoso the built-in sluggishness of the baritone being no obstacle whatsoever. Next, it is quite likely that with his own playing schedule he many have heard little or nothing of the Eckstine band so without any preconceived ideas, interpreted direct to the large horn the music of Bird, Dizzy et al. Why that interpretation sounded as it did with its smooth even flow, sophistication and emotional warmth, I feel sure, was born out of absorption of some aspects of Lester Young's subtler and cooler approach to jazz improvisation. Certainly this influence was soon to heavily affect a rash of young white tenor players all with similar ethnic backgrounds to Chaloff.

1946 and '47 saw the bulk of Chaloff's small group records; as sideman for Esoteric and Keynote (Japanese reissues not easy to find) and Dial (this reissue promised by Spotlite) and as leader for Savoy of a sextet drawn mainly features with Woody during '48 and '49 especially AFRS broadcasts turning up on various labels. Also in '49 an excellent septet date for a small NYC label reissued by Prestige has some of his finest 'pre-comeback' work. All worth investigating with ample evidence of his astonishingly fertile imagination and developing sense of drams. – Brian Evans

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