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Saturday, January 20, 2024

Steel Guitar Jazz - Buddie Emmons



Steel Guitar Jazz
Buddie Emmons
Recorded at Capitol Studios, New York City on July 22, 1963
Mercury Records SR 60843

Buddie Emmons - Guitar
Bobby Scott - Piano
Charlie Persip - Drums
Jerome Richardson - Tenor & Soprano Sax
Art Davis - Bass

From the back cover: Traditionally associated with Hawaiian and hillbilly bands, it is quite understandable that a steel guitar jazz album may seem a bit incongruous to the hip aficionado. But steel Guitar Jazz should convince the most demanding purist that in the right hands, the steel guitar is a formidable jazz instrument. The right hands in this case belong to Buddie Emmons, whose remarkable dexterity and unique connection show him to be a guitarist and jazzman of considerable talent.

Until this recording, the steel guitar's contact with jazz has been at best, peripheral. It was occasionally used as a novelty by the big bands of the Swing Era. In 1939, Andy Kirk had a minor hit, Floyd's Guitar Blues, using Floyd smith on an electric steel guitar; a few years later, Alvino Rey became the rage with his "singing guitars." More recently, the sometime jazzman, Lew Paul has used the instrument in a series of best selling gimmick pop recordings.

But this Buddie Emmons albums is no gimmick. Working with our uncompromising jazzmen – the fantastically talented Bobby Scott, the versatile Jerome Richardson, the smoothly swinging Charlie Persip and the propulsive Art Davis – Emmons has successfully and compellingly integrated the steel guitar's broad tonal timbres into a modern jazz setting.

Unless you dig Hawaiian or Country and Western Music, you many have never seen a steel guitar; it is an oddly shaped instrument, practically all bar and neck. All modern steel guitars are amplified. the most popular types having a long string board supported by telescoping legs. When the whole contraption is open and in operation it looks like a steel stringed ironing board. Some of the very elaborate models are rigged up with batteries of pedals which produce various tone qualities, organ tones and sharp, penetrating sounds that imitate various reed instruments.

Listening to Buddie Emmons, I think you'll agree that he makes tasteful and judicious use of the steel guitar's peculiar slides, glissandi and slurred effects, never letting them get out of hand but rather using them to add just the right harmonic seasoning. For example, on There Will Never Be Another You, Emmons shades and sustains Jerome Richardson' pretty soprano statements using deep, organ-like chords. Again on Where Or When, the guitarist adds a piquant touch, punctuating another lovely Richardson soprano chorus with incisive oboe-like effects.

Richardson charges styles and saxophones with ease, assurance and authority through the album. From an essentially lyric approach on soprano, he moves to a hard Coltrane-ish tenor sound on Gonna Build A Mountain and Oleo and thence to a relaxed, velvety, bluesy conception on I Can't Stop Loving You.

Note the rapport between Ennons and Richardson on the Sonny Rollins piece, Oleo. In the opening and closing ensemble statements, the saxophone and guitar seem to fuse, sounding almost like a two man reed section. The solos here are particularly outstanding. Emmons' solo lines are long, lean and flowing, full of eight and sixtieth note clusters in the best Charlie Christian tradition. Scott follows with a short, ebullient interlude, picking up the guitarist's ideas, succinctly commenting on them and tossing them back at Emma's for further exploration. Emmons and Richardson also work nicely together on Horace Sliver's The Preacher. Here the two spar delightfully, "trading fours" before closing with the unison saxophone-guitar voicing.

Bobby Scott's work deserves special comment. Not only are his solos superb but his accompaniment enhance the whole proceedings. On tracks like Cherokee, and Time And Bluemmons, he not only feeds Emmons chords but through fully supplements the guitarist's solos.

The group empathy throughout Steel Guitar Jazz is in the finest jazz tradition. In lieu of the every-man-for-himself approach that has characterized many modern "Blowing sessions;" each of these men constructs his choruses with an ear to what the soloist before and after him has to say. This contributes to an overall group feeling and has resulted in a recording that is related, cohesive an always swinging.

Any Time
Where Or When
Indiana (Back Home Again In Indiana)
Gavy Waltz
The Preacher
Cherokee (Indian Love Song)
Gonna Build A Mountain (from the Broadway Musical Production "Stop The World – I Want To Get Off")
There Will Never Be Another You

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