Produced by Stan Kenton in 1955 and with a fantastic lineup this album has garnered a special place in my rotation. While many consider “Blue Serge” to be Serge Chaloff’s preeminent recording I find this album to be every bit as fantastic as the later album.
The first thing that has always grabbed my attention in Serge’s playing is his tone. It is a husky and slightly reedy tone with a hint of the mellowness associated with the west coast jazz of the day. I wouldn’t consider it an honest west coast cool jazz sound. It is easy to hear the influence of Harry Carney on his tone. Chaloff’s tone would fit nicely with the current trend towards brighter tones and more projection. Of course he’d have to use a brighter reed but otherwise he’d drop right into current musical trends.
The second thing that grabs me is how delicate he can make the big horn sound. His technique is quite light and fluid and his expressiveness is exquisite. Just listen to “What’s New?” and you will hear the haunting, almost melancholy moaning of a passionate player and his perfect medium. The track is minimalist while still carrying the expressive load of a church choir 10 times its size.
Chaloff did not create this magic on his own. The crew is as follows: Everett Evans on bass, Boots Mussulli on alto saxophone, Herb Pomeroy on trumpet, Ray Santisi on piano, and Jimmy Zitano on drums. Mussulli and Pomeroy create the feel of a full horn section due to the excellent arranging and their performances are an excellent match for Chaloff. In fact this album sent me looking for more on Boots Mussulli. His Charlie Parker styled improvisations combined with a tone reminiscent of Lennie Niehaus really drove me Amazon in search of more.
Take Away: This album is great on its own or when listened to in rotation with “Blue Serge”. I recommend adding this recording to your collection and enjoying this album for its great phrasings, quality arranging, and virtuoso playing.