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Doug Webb: Triple Play

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Tenor saxophone junkies unite. Why aren’t more records made this way? Position three powerhouse tenors across a stereo system’s soundstage, left (Walt Weiskopf), center (Doug Webb), right (Joel Frahm). Hire a fearless organist (Brian Charette) and a tempestuous drummer (Rudy Royston). When all hell breaks loose, run for cover.

Four of these players have significant jazz reputations in the toughest scene on the planet, New York City. Webb has spent most of his professional life in Los Angeles studios, but he is a heavyweight. If he weren’t, standing between Weiskopf and Frahm, he would get crushed.

The rush is how these guys keep topping one another. Triple Play is no cutting session, but whoever solos first throws down a challenge, and the other two have to spill their guts to stay in the game. Almost all jazz records make some attempt at “pacing.” Not this one. No ballads here. The first four tracks are fast, then comes “Avalon,” which is ridiculous. Webb goes first, like a bullet train, never quite careening off the tracks. Weiskopf and Frahm rocket after him, burning adrenaline.

The three speak the same modern mainstream tenor language, but with distinctive pronunciations. Webb is clean and clarion. Weiskopf is throaty and edgy. Frahm has the widest range, from gruff to shrill.

For all the balls-to-the-wall blowing, Triple Play is more than a blowing session. Tunes are organized to exploit the special potential of the three-tenor ensemble sound. In an arrangement by Randy Aldcroft, three horns pass around pieces of “I Concentrate on You” (faster than normal, of course), then come together in startling, slightly nasal three-part harmony.

Charette more than holds his own in this fast company. If jazz polls had a category for “best organ solo of the year,” his nasty, hissing eruption on “Alligator Bogaloo” would get this writer’s vote.

Originally Published