Serge Chaloff: A Handful of Stars


A Handful of Stars


Serge Chaloff (baritone sax)


Blue Serge (Capitol Jazz CDP 7243 4 94505 2 3)

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Serge Chaloff (baritone sax), Sonny Clark (piano), Leroy Vinnegar (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums).

Composed by Jack Lawrence & Ted Shapiro


Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, March 14, 1956


Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

The best baritone saxophonist most listeners have never heard of: Serge Chaloff, whose rather incredible talents combine Harry Carney's tone and Cecil Payne's vocabulary. After early runs with Boyd Raeburn and Jimmy Dorsey, Chaloff teamed with Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Herbie Steward to form Woody Herman's "Four Brothers." There was quite a buzz surrounding his playing after those performances, but Chaloff failed to capitalize, in part due to a serious drug habit that frequently interrupted his recording career. In the early to mid-'50s, however, Chaloff managed to kick the habit and release a handful of outstanding recordings as a leader, before tragically suffering from spinal paralysis and an untimely death.

Blue Serge, the highlight of these late-career sessions, features consistently inspired playing from Chaloff and the superb rhythm section Clark, Vinnegar and Philly Joe Jones. Note how amazingly hard Chaloff is swinging right off the bat during his expressive statement of the melody, while maintaining a light, "is-this-really-a-bari?" tone. The intensity spikes as soon as his solo starts, utilizing the full dynamic range of his horn with a blistering run of 16th notes supported by a double-timing Philly Joe. Vinnegar's solo and the trading among all four members at the tune's conclusion also distinguish this exceptional track.

Reviewer: Eric Novod

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