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"Swinging Sunset" by Saxophonist Anthony E. Nelson

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    Posted: 30 May 2023 at 9:10am







Coming June 9, 2023 on Musicstand Records



ANTHONY E NELSON JR - Swinging Sunset cover





“His saxophone sings ebulliently, seeing him summoning breathtaking woodwind tones from the instrument which float gloriously over the rest of the ensemble“ – Jazz Da Gama


SWINGING SUNSET, the newest CD by sax player and composer ANTHONY E. NELSON Jr., is an homage to the great jazz organ trios that were particularly popular in clubs in the 1950s and 60s.


This is Nelson’s 5th CD as a leader and follows Testament-Live at Cecil's (2010), Tenor for Two (2011), Live at Twins Jazz (2013), and Swift To Hear, Slow To Speak (2016). Jazz Music Archives says, “A saxophonist, flautist, clarinetist and bass clarinetist, Nelson is blessed with an inherent talent that is boundless in its ability to reach across generational and genre lines.”


Nelson is joined on SWINGING SUNSET by two veterans, drummer CECIL BROOKS III (Marvin Peterson, Andrew Hill, Arthur Blythe, Russell Gunn, Etta Jones, Jimmy Ponder) and B3 organist KYLE KOEHLER (Craig Handy, Don Braden, Conrad Herwig, Vince Ector, Jerry Weldon).


Organ trios are rooted in African American culture. With its soulful, emotive sound, organs were popular in black churches, where they were played by jazz musicians like Fats Waller and Charles Keynard in the 1920s and 30s. By the 1950s, the organ had emerged from the churches to find popularity in bars and clubs in trio settings in the inner-city neighborhoods after Jimmy Smith began to play bebop on the Hammond B3. Musicians liked the organ trio setting because it was intimate and allowed them to stretch out. But club owners embraced it, too, because it was cheaper to pay a trio than a larger band while still filling their clubs with the big B3 sound.


Nelson grew up around Newark, N.J., and spent a lot of time in jazz clubs like the iconic Peppermint Lounge in Orange, N.J., where he listened to some of the best jazz and R&B musicians in the 1990s. It was where he heard Jimmy McGriff and became captivated with the organ as a jazz instrument. Nelson’s own music is imbued with the sounds of classic jazz, soul, and funk. The church has played a major role in his life, and his spirituality is reflected in each of his CDs. He plays with the joy and fervor of a Baptist church service.


SWINGING SUNSET came about by happenstance. Brooks, who mentored Nelson when he was in high school, moved to the West Coast but came back east for some gigs in New York and New Jersey. Brooks thought it would be a good idea while he was in town to record with Nelson, so they went into the studio with B3 master Kyle Koehler, a NYC-based first-call player, and laid down some tracks. Most of the tracks on the album were recorded in just one take, giving the music the feel of a live recording.


Nelson relates, “This is an album I needed to do even though I didn’t know I needed to do it. The organ was a big part of my church upbringing and a big part of the music education I received in the clubs in Harlem and New Jersey. I have also played on numerous organ trio gigs. For this album, I wanted to honor the cats who knew how to do an organ trio right. But I also wanted to pay homage to the great sax players that shaped my understanding of the music. I have great love for artists like Gene Ammons, Houston Person, Stanley Turrentine, and other sax giants without whom I wouldn’t be the musician I am today.”


Nelson opens the album with “Canadian Sunset,” which he first heard on Ammons’ 1960 album, Boss Tenor. Played as a medium swing, the tune, as Nelson says, just feels good. In fact, the band had such a good time playing it, they forgot they were recording. Nelson relates, “We were in the moment. It was like being in church and everyone is singing and clapping, and the preacher wants to move on with the service, but no one is paying attention to him because they’re so wrapped up in the feeling of the music. The song went on a little longer than we intended, so we turned the outro of the tune into its own standalone piece and called it ‘One More Once.’”


Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk” has been recorded by dozens of artists, including Ralph Moore, one of Nelson’s favorites. Although the band had some idea of what songs they were going to play for the recording, they just called “Girl Talk” and laid down the track in a single take. Nelson wrote “Uno Mas Por Roberto” for his uncle Bob, who speaks fluent Spanish. The song has a soul/Bossa vibe. In honor of Johnny Griffin, another of Nelson’s favorites, the band plays a lovely version of “These Foolish Things,” which Griffin recorded in 1956 on Introducing Johnny Griffin.


Nelson follows with Stanley Turrentine’s hip “Minor Chant,” which Jimmy Smith recorded on his album Back to the Chicken Shack. “Mildew” was written by Johnny Griffin. Nelson says, “I love Johnny because he plays pretty no matter how much fire he brings to a song.” Nelson recorded “Why Did I Choose You” because he was so taken by Marvin Gaye’s version on his album, Vulnerable. “My goal,” says Nelson, “was to capture the poetry of the lyrics.”


“On a Misty Night” was a staple at the Peppermint Lounge jam sessions. He had heard and played the song so many times, he learned it on the bandstand and never saw the sheet music. Nelson includes “Three Little Words” because he had heard so many versions of it by Sonny Rollins. Nelson, though, undeniably puts his own spin on this old chestnut. “Walk with Me” is a gospel standard. Nelson had his godmother in mind while playing this bluesy, soulful number. Nelson ends the album with his composition “Last Call (for Gryce),” written in honor of saxophonist Tommy Gryce. A blues, Nelson usually ends his live performances with this tune.


Anthony Nelson’s sax playing is lyrical, with a full, warm sound. Although he can blow hard, he approaches a tune like a singer approaches a song lyric. His aim is to capture the emotional and spiritual content of a tune, and he does not sacrifice the groove for mere complexity. With the sensitive accompaniment from Koehler and Brooks, SWINGING SUNSET is a moving tribute to the sax players and organ trios who have nourished his soul.


# # #


SWINGING SUNSET is set for release on June 9, 2023 on Musicstand Records and will be available everywhere.






Spotify: bit.ly/3zQZwUn


Edited by snobb - 30 May 2023 at 9:54am
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