The baritone saxophone went through a period of distinctive stylists. From Harry Carney and Gerry Mulligan to Cecil Payne and Leo Parker, the instrument has made a stamp on the jazz idiom, whether as a sentimental balladeer to the low voiced bebopper. Taking cues from all these stylists, bari specialist Gary Smulyan has definitely cemented himself at the top of a short list of players who have mastered the big horn.
Smulyan’s expert service in the fantastic large ensembles of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie and the Village Vanguard Orchestra has made him a standout section player and soloist. A voice that is distinctive and also an important element to the given ensemble.
It is a rare pleasure to hear Smulyan in a small ensemble performance, a setting where you can really hear his genius unabated. A terrific opportunity came about during the fall of 2016 as the saxophonist was on a tour through Europe. Smulyan invited producer Jacques Muyal to a gig in Lausanne, Switzerland, which Muyal wasn’t able to attend. Knowing that Smulyan would be in Paris shortly thereafter, Muyal reached out to the world-renowned club, Le Duc des Lombards, to secure permission to record. The subsequent Royalty at Le Duc presents the brilliant Smulyan in a setting that allows his music to truly blossom, live in a jazz club.
The European rhythm section that Smulyan assembled for the tour was composed of French pianist Olivier Hutman, Italian bassist Michel Rosciglione and Austrian drummer Bernd Reiter. The ensemble was more than capable of handling the diverse program of jazz classics, including Thad Jones’s “Thedia” and “Elusive,” Billy Strayhorn’s “The Star-crossed Lovers,” Pepper Adams’s “Cindy’s Tune,” Joe Henderson’s “Serenity,” Raksin and Mercer’s “Laura” and Johnny Green’s “Body & Soul.”
Gary Smulyan’s Royalty at Le Duc was recorded by lucky happenstance. The recording also provides an exemplary instance of the depth of the bari saxophonist’s incredible artistry on the bandstand, aided by some of the best jazz musicians Europe has to offer.
2. The Star-Crossed Lovers
3. Cindy's Tune
7. Body & Soul
Olivier Hutman - piano
Michel Rosciglione - bass
Bernd Reiter - drums