Monday, November 12, 2012

Ellington Saxophone Encounters

The American Jazz Institute presents the Mark Masters Ensemble
... featuring Gary Smulyan 
Hans Koert

The Duke Ellington Band must have been one of the most productive orchestras from the 20th Century.

Duke Ellington's Orchestra (source:

Its leader, Duke Ellington, was one of the most creative composers of its time, in cooperation with Billy Strayhorn,  and famous because of his arrangements concentrated on the soloists of his band ….. but also its saxophone members, like Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster or Harry Carney  composed and the tunes were played by Duke's band. Duke Ellington’s music is still popular and the American Jazz Institute, directed by Mark Masters, is one of those institutes that preserves its musical heritage. Recently an all-star band recorded less known tunes, composted by members of its saxophone section and released the album Ellington Saxophone Encounters by the Mark Masters Ensemble, featuring award-winning baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan. 

Gary Smulyan ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert) 

The Mark Masters Ensemble features some great names like baritone saxophone player Gary Smulyan with  Gary Foster, Pete Christlieb, Gene Cirpriano and Don Shelton on reeds; pianist Bill Cunliffe, bass player Tom Warrington and drummer Joe LaBarbera.

Gary Foster ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

The album contains a dozen tracks, all originally composed by members of Ellington’s band and arranged by Mark Masters.  Listen to its openings tune Esquire Swank a composition by Johnny Hodges and Duke Ellington, which was played as part of the Magazine Suite in 1945 and was recorded in Hollywood  in 1946 for Victor

The tracks on this album were all composed by members of Ellington’s saxophone section, like the L.H. Blues, also composed by Johnny Hodges; We’re in Love Again by Harry Carney; Get Ready and Ultra Blue by Jimmy Hamilton and Ben Webster’s Love’s Away.

Pete Christlieb ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

The members of Mark Masters Ensemble are all skilled jazz musician who have won their spurs in jazz. Gary Smulyan is known as winner of numerous Critics Polls for playing the huge baritone saxophone in bands like the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and the David Holland Octet.

Gary Foster ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Gary Foster is a Tristano influenced alto saxophone player. Pete Christlieb is a west coast tenor saxophonist, known for his work in bands like Count Basie’s, the orchestras of Quincy Jones, Benny Goodman and the ensembles of Frank Rossolino, Carl Fontana and Shelle Manne to list some great names from the west coast. 

(Capri 74118-2)

It is hard to say what track fascinated me most, …………… Jeep's Blues, Get Ready or the opening tune Esquire Swank  .....  You may find out yourself.
The latest album by Mark Masters Ensemble: Ellington Saxophone Encounters is a great album.

Hans Koert
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The music of Duke Ellington facinates baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan and composer, arranger and bandleader Mark Masters.  The Ensemble, featuring great names like Gary Foster, Pete Christlieb, Gene Cirpriano, Gary Smulyan, Joe La Barbera, Tom Warrington and Bill Cunliffe recorded the music special composed by its saxophone section. A great album!

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