Gary Smulyan – Our Contrafacts

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“Fantastic work from Gary Smulyan – a baritone saxophonist who may well be one of the few really standout players on his instrument these days – working in a legacy that puts his mighty talents right up there with Pepper Adams, Serge Chaloff, and a rare few others who could really make the baritone swing!” (Dusty Groove).

“When Bird and Diz took the chords of popular songs like “I Got Rhythm” and “Cherokee” and wrote new melodies over them, people called it bebop. Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan opts for the concept’s jazz-education name of “contrafacts.” This trio album brings together eight lesser-known examples of the practice from the late ’40s through the early ’60s—including such “alternatives” to the bop classics as Mal Waldron’s “Vodka,” Ted Curson’s “Ahma See Ya” and Coleman Hawkins’ “Hanid”—along with one of Smulyan’s own contrafacts, “I’ve Changed.”

The erudition displayed in Smulyan’s deep-cut choices is just as clear in his playing. His best solo comes on Gil Fuller and Dave Burns’ “Moodamorphosis,” a sustained feast of brilliantly interconnected ideas. The rhythm section adds special luster to Paul Chambers’ “Tale of the Fingers,” with bassist David Wong giving his bow a workout and drummer Rodney Green trading scintillating eights and fours with Smulyan. Tempos and rhythmic feels don’t vary much from medium swing, but the musicians find new twists where they can. On Jimmy Giuffre’s “Deep People,” for instance, they all leave lots of holes in their parts; each player’s role in relation to the beat—who’s keeping it, who’s playing off it—changes from second to second.

If you’re not familiar with these tunes but still want to try identifying the sources from which they sprang, your harmonic detective work will be complicated by the fact that there’s no chordal instrument present. This makes it harder to tell what changes the musicians are hearing in their heads, and easier for them to veer away from those changes whenever they like. You may as well set your analytical mind on other tasks and just enjoy the buoyant vibes, of which there are plenty.” – Mac Randall/JazzTimes.

Track listing:
Vodka (Mal Waldron) 7:34
Deep People (Jimmy Guiffre) 5:24
Tale of the Fingers (Paul Chambers) 5:42
Cohn Pone (Al Cohn/Nick Travis) 6:32
Moodamorphosis (Gil Fuller, Dave Burns) 7:10
Ahma See Ya Ted Curson) 7:46
I’ve Changed (Gary Smulyan) 5:22
On the Minute (John Eardley) 6:00
Hanid (Coleman Hawkins) 7:55

Gary Smulyan – baritone saxophone
David Wong – bass
Rodney Green – drums


Release: May 15, 2020
Recorded: April 2017
Label: SteepleChase