If Al Gallodoro’s name isn’t familiar, endorsements by Jimmy Dorsey (“The best saxophone player that ever lived”), Benny Golson (“This guy from the past turned me upside down”), Paquito D’Rivera, Buddy DeFranco and Eddie Daniels should pique your interest. Gallodoro’s career includes vaudeville, nightclubs, symphonic performances under Toscanini and lead alto with Paul Whiteman, among much more. At 94, he continues to play, and this album includes 15 tracks recorded in his late 80s with pianist JoAnn Bertone Chmielowski and four historic tracks from 1948 through 1969.
The first thing you notice is Gallodoro’s full, golden tone. It makes others sound like they’re playing with one lung. His tone might be compared to that of Sidney Bechet; in fact, in the high and altissimo registers, his alto sounds like a soprano. Then there is his dexterity. Gallodoro embellishes in an ornate, arpeggio style, sort of half classical, half jazz. Much of Chmielowski’s accompaniment is ragtime-based, so there’s a lot of compatibility between his dazzling melodic decoration and her backing and solos. The latter-day performances include, for example, Ferde Grofe’s “Daybreak,” Earl Hines’ “Rosetta,” Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia” and Bechet’s “Petit Fleur.” The historic tracks include “Saxophobia” and “Flight of the Bumblebee” (on clarinet). Gallodoro occasionally plays bass clarinet on the later cuts.
While the style of this music is dated, Gallodoro’s virtuosity crosses generations. If you’re a saxophonist, you owe it to yourself to check out this CD.