Benny Golson plays tenor saxophone like he speaks--in a mellifluous tone, with superb pacing and a large vocabulary to draw on. As the years pass, he's increasingly recognized as one of the most luminous tenor players in jazz: clever but not too clever, poised even at a jackrabbit tempo, and able to hold your interest even on a tune he's played a gazillion times. He improvises like a composer and vice versa, writing tunes whose strong contours and rhythmic vitality lend themselves to coherent variations. Consider the best-known ballad he's contributed to the jazz canon, the elegy "I Remember Clifford," where his wide-interval leaps and stately pace evoke both Clifford Brown's majestic trumpet playing and the affection other musicians felt for him. Or take "Killer Joe," where headlong momentum is built into the tune, launching a soloist like a ski jump. Even his "Blues March," a staple of drummer Art Blakey's book for over three decades, can still charm with its quick modified parade rhythm. Golson is usually heard in small groups, but he's an able arranger too; he'll play his charts on those compositions and more (including "Whisper Not" and "Along Came Betty") when he joins the attentive and energetic Chicago Jazz Orchestra for a set at the Washington Library this weekend. Sunday, January 27, 3 PM, auditorium, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State; 312-409-3947.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.