there’s one instrument richer in sound than the tenor saxophone, it’s the
baritone. No disrespect intended for other instruments, but there’s just
something about a freely expressive saxophone solo – especially if it’s a
tenor, or in the case of Smul’s Paradise (Capri Records, 2012) by
Though the baritone is the primary instrument, the album is a tribute to
organ jazz legends. Smulyan is accompanied by Mike LeDonne on Hammond B3
organ, Peter Bernstein on guitar and Kenny Washington on drums.
The set clocks in at a shade under 53 minutes. The opening track is an
extended visit with Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny.” Guitar and sax meld for the main
theme, with some deft work by organ and drums in the background. It’s
difficult not to think of Jimmy Smith when listening to LeDonne’s middle
solo. He plays with the same verve that Smith delivered on “Night Train.”
Two of the selections were written by Don Patterson, one of Smulyan’s
heroes. In addition to these, Smulyan dedicates the original composition,
“Blues for D.P.,” a slow, moody piece. Bernstein is featured more here
than on some tracks.
The quartet recorded Smul’s Paradise in hours, with no rehearsal
time. They got most of the tracks in just one take, giving the entire
package a fresh sound, and showing their cohesion as a unit.
Smulyan is 2011 winner of the DownBeat Critics Poll and Jazz Times Readers
and Critics polls for baritone sax. His associations include Woody
Herman’s Young Thundering Herd, Mingus Big Band and Smithsonian Jazz
Masterworks Orchestra. Others he has shared the stage or studio with are
such icons as Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Chick Corea,
Tito Puento, Ray Charles and Diana Ross.