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Nick Brignola: All Business

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In 1943, when Ben Webster first heard Charlie Parker play the tenor, he is reported to have said, “That horn ain’t s’posed to sound that fast.” Most likely, that sentiment would have been shared by Harry Carney and Ernie Caceres five years later, when they, the leading baritone saxmen of the ’30s and ’40s, first heard Serge Chaloff running up and down their horn with an agility usually associated with fleet-fingered tenormen. But ever since Serge proved that the baritone need not be the clumsy, cumbersome horn that critics insisted it was, the way was open for even more imaginative uses of the instrument’s potential, as we have seen in the work of Sahib Shihab, Pepper Adams, and, more recently, Nick Brignola.

In addition to his all-embracing mastery of the larger horn, Nick is also a consummate performer on clarinet, soprano, alto, and tenor, but on this, his ninth CD for Reservoir, he plays only baritone and soprano (the two variously tempoed takes of “Seven Come Eleven,” the Charlie Christian-Benny Goodman swing standard). Working with vibist Dave Pike, guitarist Chuck D’Aloia, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Billy Hart, Nick also sails through Sonny Rollins’ “Pent-Up House,” three challenging originals-“Green St. Groove,” “In the Zone,” and “Tea for Three,” D’Aloia’s “Fast Food,” and the still vital standards, “How Deep Is The Ocean?,” “Darn That Dream,” and “I Wished on the Moon.” Just as Chaloff ultimately learned to slow down long enough to play ballads without double- and triple-timing them, Brignola has taken the best of Carney’s warmth and breadth of sound and combined it with the heated dexterity of bop in full flight.