Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tenor Battles - An Ongoing Tradition

Tenor Titans Ralph Lalama and Billy Drewes continue the ‘tenor battle’ tradition as a part of Blue Note’s Sunday Brunch Series, Sunday, July 8 at 12:30 pm.

In a Bret Primack interview, Sonny Rollins explains this tradition in reference to his composition "Tenor Madness", featuring John Coltrane. 
“In those days we used to always have... tenor battles. It’s an old tradition.” Rollins clarifies that these duels are not out of animosity, but out of camaraderie and mutual respect. This tradition dates back to Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, the earliest primary influences of the tenor saxophone. When Lester Young joined the Count Basie Orchestra, Basie's wife took Young to record stores, encouraging him to check out Hawkins' recordings. Young's sound and approach was so revolutionary and different than Coleman Hawkins they were able to complement each other in duet. In 1957 Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt went head-to-head over rhythm changes on "Eternal Triangle". Al Cohn and Zoot Sims battled with a cool vibe on "Lover Come Back to Me.Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray showed that the West Coast can play bebop with "The Chase" and "The Hunt."  Gene Ammons’ Boss Tenors recordings with Sonny Stitt represent this tradition in a swinging bop form. For a modern approach, Jerry Bergonzi's  "On Again, Off Again" on Alex Riel's UnRiel (1997) features Michael Brecker and Jerry Bergonzi going at it.

Ralph Lalama and Billy Drewes are both influential New York tenor players. Lalama has won three GRAMMYs and released many albums as a leader. Drewes has over 100 recording credits to his name and has shared the stage with the finest in jazz. Both are members of the Vangaurd Jazz Orchestra.

This Sunday, July 8 at 12:30pm enjoy brunch and witness Billy Drewes and Ralph Lalama battle, continuing a respectful and exciting tradition.

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