Musical Space: The Jazz Tenor Sax March Madness, Part 2.

Mar 28, 2017

 

The battle continues.

 

We’re listening to saxophonist Jimmy Heath in the performance that brought him into the sweet 16 over rival Harold Land in this year’s Jazz Tenor Sax March Madness Championship. If you go to KMUW.org, you can see the bracket and click links to hear the world’s greatest jazz tenor players battle for supremacy.

There are plenty of highlights, like the stunning upset as rookie Joshua Redman beat out 1939 MVP Coleman Hawkins to join his father, Hall of Famer Dewey Redman in this year’s sweet 16. 

Joe Henderson brought an intense modernity with “Inner Urge,” which took him to a stunning victory over Dexter Gordon to reach the quarter-finals.

Two Miles Davis band alums Wayne Shorter vs. John Coltrane rose over Henderson and Sonny Rollins in the final four to reach the championship game.

Both made it this far not only because of their groundbreaking playing styles and technical prowess, but also because they’ve mastered the game of composition. Wayne Shorter’s 1965 “Witch Hunt” comes on strong with assured and sonorous playing in a tune which combines cool-jazz style of Miles with a forward-thinking aesthetic freedom.

The championship, though, goes to John Coltrane with the blistering solo on Countdown, from his 1960 album Giant Steps. Coltrane takes fast, hard bop playing to the next level on a tune that uses unprecedented key changes at superhuman speed. His playing is so strong that the band doesn’t even need to come in until the very end. There you have it, an unassisted slam-dunk for the record books.

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