Friday, August 27, 2010

Adam Schroeder Bops the Baritone

In the right hands the baritone sax has an assertive quality, a percussiveness, and a richly timbred lower presence that is unique. With the sound comes responsibility. You play it, you have to drag the cumbersome, lumberous case from gig to gig. When Sonny Stitt was asked why he gave up the baritone in the '50s, he replied "I got tired of lugging the thing around."

Thankfully there are those who are still willing to do that. Adam Schroeder is one of them. Judging from the evidence of his CD A Handful of Stars (Capri 74103-2) we can be happy that he does. If the spectral shades of Serge Chaloff and Pepper Adams were capable of checking out this disk, they would be too. Not that he directly clones their playing style. But there's a muscular robustness and a hard-swinging bop orientation he shares with them. Stars showcases a fine quartet: Schroeder with drummer Jeff Hamilton (who mainstreamers will no doubt know from his various efforts in the fold), bassist John Clayton, and guitarist Graham Dechter. More on the latter in a minute.

This is good blowing and hard swinging. There is a mix of standards and bopping originals. It's an album that could have been made many years ago, but that is no drawback if you love the style. Of course, the other side of the coin is that this is not music on the cutting-edge. You understand that. I need not say it. (Since I did though, I'll leave it in the paragraph anyway.)

Schroeder is in great form; Dechter plays nicely wrought chordal and single note lines that show his roots and dexterous imagination. He makes a great foil for the baritone artistry of the leader. The whole session swings nicely. It's something to get the toes tapping and the body and soul grooving. Baritone fans will be especially pleased, for Adam Schroeder can play it!

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