Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tim Price Bloggin' For D'Addario Woodwinds- The future can be found in Georgie Auld.

It has been my contention that the most valuable viewpoints come from those who do. Thus, it’s logical to assume that any saxist who is surviving in this field, and doing it with success, is doing something right. The energies we all put into our craft; The years of apprenticeship and life-struggle, and the never ending open tuition to the school of hard knocks is always balanced by the intense commitment to the horn, and the pure love of playing it. Not everybody in jazz as in any art form can be a genius' but there are always musicians that have contributed and have made themselves worthy of recognition.This is Georgie Auld. The original KING SUPER 20 ( Along with Chas Ventura) endorser too, by the way.. George Auld was a rising tenor saxophone stylist in the late 1930's. Already in his late teens he was demonstrating his abilities as an original soloist.Playing in Bunny Berigan's band, e.g. "The Prisoner's Song" and many live airchecks with Artie Shaw, e.g. "Everybody's Jumpin'" he managed to sythesize Herschel Evans and "Pres" into a very identifible style. Unfortunately, he is overlooked when listeing to "Pres," "Hawk," Ben Webster, etal. He remains for this listener a mystery.After he left these bands he began sounding like other people, e.g. Ben Webster. Later the cool school West Coast tenor players.The answer to this question I guess will never be known. When many players attempt to find their voice which he apparently did and then to lose site of himself is a strong case of regression of either lost identity or confidence in what he was doing. To me Auld played an important role in the tenor saxophone history. Auld coming to prominence in the Swing era, he was one of the very few swing musicians who managed to traverse the ridge that Dizzy Gillespie and the young moderns threw up between swing and be-bop in the middle Forties. While most of the swing musicians gave up in the face of the new music, Auld not only relished the challenge but moved swiftly towards the top of the be-bop ladder. While his later work was commercial, some of his recordings in the mid-Forties, notably "Co-Pilot", which features Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, were daring examples of big band jazz, possessing values which would escape the notice of the general listener of the time. Auld's family left his native Toronto when he was 10 and moved to New York in 1929. Studying alto sax, he won a Rudy Weidoeft Scholarship in 1931 and studied with that famous teacher for nine months. In 1936 he was so affected by bearing Coleman Hawkins's recording of "Meditation" that he switched to Hawkins's instrument, the tenor. George had his own small group that year at Nick's, one of New York's more famous jazz nightclubs, and joined Bunny Berigan's orchestra in 1937. Auld's early experiences in the big band world must have been rigorous since, on leaving the everdrunk Berigan, he joined the orchestra led by the brilliant clarinetist Artie Shaw in 1939. No sooner had he settled in than Shaw decided to give up the band and that November the 20-year-old Auld took it over and tried to run it himself, but without a star name to draw the customers, the orchestra was soon forced to disband. After a few months with Jan Savitt's band, Auld joined Benny Goodman in November 1940 and during the next seven months with Benny made his most famous recordings. Most importantly, Auld was here exposed to the work of Goodman's guitarist Charlie Christian, one of the young musicians who was probing his way toward what was, in the hands of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and others, to become be-bop a few years further on. Christian's use of augmented and diminished chords was unique in jazz at that time. Auld was a receptive listener and Christian's influence on him was profound. When Christian died some months later, Auld left Goodman and joined Artie Shaw's new band, but he continued to explore the music that Charlie and the others had opened up to him, The unpredictable Shaw disbanded again in January 1942, and Auld led a group of his own until he went into the army in 1943. For some reason he was discharged, perhaps because of a chest illness which was to trouble him for many years, and from June 1943 he led a quartet at The Three Deuces in New York until, in September that year, he formed his big band. Auld's band lasted for two years and was never amongst the best known but it made many interesting records and spanned a difficult period in jazz when the roots of its arrangements were in swing but its soloists in the be-bop era. Big bands became uneconomic in the post-war period, and Auld sensibly paired his down to a sextet, probably one of the best of all his bands. It included the trumpeter Red Rodney, the baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff, the pianist George Wallington (later replaced by Lou Levy), the bassist Curly Russell and the brilliant drummer/composer Tiny Kahn. George's illness caused him to break up this band and he moved to Arizona and finally to California for his health. He reformed, this time with a nine- piece devoted to the writing and style of the great composer Tadd Dameron. In 1948 he joined Billy Eckstine's band and in 1949 spent almost a year on Broadway acting in the play The Rat Race. At this time he also ran a club in New York, the Tin Pan Alley, which became a center for jam sessions. He joined Count Basie's Octet briefly and then formed a fine quintet in New York in 1951 (with Levy, Russell and Kahn, plus the young trombone virtuoso Frank Rosolino). Auld began to shed his be- bop overtones and returned to his earlier Coleman Hawkins-influenced manner. Returning to the West Coast in 1954, he opened another club, The Melody Room in Hollywood. Auld drifted into obscurity, but bounced back when, for no good reason, he became immensely popular in Japan. He made more than a dozen tours there beginning in 1964 and recorded 16 albums for Japanese labels. In 1977 he appeared in the film New and Liza Minelli. De Niro's role was as York, New York with Robert De Niro a saxophone player, and Auld played the solos on the soundtrack as well as having an acting part. His link to the Colman Hawkins school of tough tenor played a vital part in jazz and swing music. John Altwerger (George Auld) bandleader, saxophone And clarinet player, born Toronto, 19 May 1919, died Las Vegas 7 January, 1990. To me Auld played an important role in the tenor saxophone history. If you can listen to him at some point in time I think it would provide a missing link to a style that is very accesiable and vital to the sax and swing music. On a personal note-if anyone has any of his jap. issue recordings - I am very interested in getting any kind of copys. Just E mail me. CLOSE behind the tenor sax playing of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Bud Freeman, came that of George Auld. The result is that their playing will be remembered when Auld's could be sadly forgotten, and yet he too was a jazz innovator through the big bands that he led in the Forties.And was one serious tenor man......Have a great New Years Day my friends...and see you in 2015 as ever - Tim Price

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