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Cecil Payne: Bebop a Payne, a Cecil Do

Cecil Payne
Cecil Payne

You need only phone Cecil Payne at his home near Camden, N.J., to understand precisely where he’s coming from musically. His answering machine reveals the answer in no uncertain terms: “Scoo-vlee-o-voo [pause] doo-bleep-da-blop-woo-oo. Payne’s window-comment allez-vous. Bebop!” Beep!

A dyed-in-the-wool rebopper from the old school, Payne played with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in its heyday, from 1946 to 1949, appearing on virtually all of the group’s famous recordings for the Victor label. His nimble yet robust baritone sax work is prominently featured on “Ow!” (a Dizzy riff based on “I Got Rhythm”) and “Stay On It,” both from the same Aug. 22, 1947, session that also yielded Dizzy’s take on the Babs Gonzales bop anthem “Oop-Pop-A-Da” and John Lewis’ “Two Bass Hit.” Payne later performed on December 1947 sessions that produced such Dizzy classics as “Cubana Be/Cubana Bop” and “Manteca,” “Ool-Ya-Koo” and “Good Bait.”

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