The editorial staff at JazzProfiles received a message from Jocelyn B. informing us of the passing of tenor saxophonist George Allgaier on September 29, 2017 at the age of 57.
We never met George and knew him only through his recorded work with bassist Paul Brusger's Quintet. Of George, Paul said: "George was a semi-finalist at the Monk competition behind [alto saxophonist] Jon Gordon and [tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene]. I've known George for a long time and he is a tremendous player with great ears and a full understanding of the history of the saxophone."
As a way of remembering George Allgaier on these pages, we thought we would reprise the two previous essays on Paul and his music, combine them into one posting and add an audio file at the end that offers a sampling of George's wonderful tenor sax playing.
George Allgaier, July 15, 1960 - September 29, 2017: R.I.P.
Musicians are often better known through the company they keep and bassist Paul Brusger keeps very good company.
To drop a few names: trumpet players Valery Ponomarev, John Swana, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber and pianists Dado Moroni, Hod O’Brien and John Hicks.
All of these fairly well-known Jazz performers have appeared at one time or another on Paul’s recordings along with his constant companions: the startlingly brilliant young tenor saxophonist, George Allgaier and the very dependable drummer, John Jenkins. [“Dependable” in the way that every horn players wants a drummer to be – “felt” more than “heard.”]
Paul’s association with these superb musical “pals” helps give the title of this piece one of its meanings.
The other implication which makes the title into a double entendre is that Paul’s major influence as a bassist was the late, great Paul Chambers.
Of course, to the Jazz cognoscenti, Paul’s Pal - the basis for the play-on-words in the title - is a Jazz standard penned by tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins and is named after … you guessed it … bassist Paul Chambers!
This now completes the circle of allusions inherent in the heading.
When combined, all of these references – working with first-rate musicians, being influenced by one of the great Jazz bassist and the compositions of legendary Jazz players - form the larger context for a visit with the music of Paul Brusger.
Put another way, Paul is the sum of all these parts: he plays well, writes well, and associates himself with exceptional musicians who all get to play on some excellent music that he has composed.
When listening to Paul’s CD’s, its almost impossible to separate these, three unifying threads.
Maybe its because the human mind seems to grasp things better when they appear in sets of three: red, green and blue are the basic color palette; according to Zen Masters the entire universe can be described by, and contained in, a circle, a triangle and a square; with Paul Brusger you get to listen to original Jazz compositions played by superb musicians all of which is held together by strong bass playing.
Of course, I could push this analogy even further by explaining that to date, Paul has issued three CD’s under his own name, but I think it would probably be more appropriate to talk specifically about the music itself at this point.
Scott Yanow opens his insert notes to Paul’s 1997 CD You Oughta Know It [Brownstone
BRCD-2-002] by observing:
“Paul Brusger will be a new name to many listeners but it is obvious, listening to his particularly strong debut, that he is not just a fine bassist in the tradition of Paul Chambers, Doug Watkins and Oscar Pettiford but an up-and-coming composer too.
Of the ten songs, two are standards, two are his own blues and his six other originals have chord changes that are viable vehicles for solos in the hard bop tradition.
‘I'm amazed how fast it came together,’ says the bassist.’ I gave each of the players the charts one day, we rehearsed for three hours and then we went into the studio the next day. Particularly because so many of the songs are original, I was very impressed by how quickly the musicians made the music their own.’”
To give his listeners a basis in familiarity, Paul does include standards such as Do Nothin’ ‘Till You Hear From Me, Love Letters, and Falling in Love With Love on his disc, but, in the main, what’s on offer here is Brusger Bop – Jazz compositions written in the straight-ahead, hard-bop style often associated with Tadd Dameron, Gig Gryce and Sonny Clark, to name only a few.
Joining Paul, George Allgaier and John Jenkins on You Oughta Know It are trumpeter Valery Ponomarev and pianist Dado Moroni.
Because of Valery’s heavily influenced Clifford Brown style of playing and George Allagier’s deep affinity for Sonny Rollins, the front-line soon adopts a trumpet-tenor sound that is very reminiscent of the original Clifford Brown- Max Roach quintet.
But influences and comparisons aside, this is Paul Brusger’s music. It is new and it is fun to play on. Paul knows what he’s doing and in doing it he doesn’t lose sight of the fact that he has to create compositional vehicles that make it possible for other musicians to create inspired solos.
Whether it’s the rhythmically challenging Urban Lullaby or the medium tempo blues homage contained in Paul’s Chamber [which appropriately leads off with a bass solo – how often do you hear that happen these days?], or the up-tempo burner, Swing Street, with its finger-poppin’ notations, Paul’s composition just lay so right that you can hear everybody having a ball playing on them.
And although Paul’s originals have a familiarity to them [
Swing Street, for example, is closely related to I’ll Remember April], they are structured in such a way as to make it possible for the musicians to take chances.
What comes through is the joy, happiness and excitement – the infectious energy of Jazz being created at the highest musical level.
I can imagine the looks of satisfaction that the musicians exchanged with one another after safely navigating through the complexities of
Swing Street’s theme, each having had a few “seafaring adventures” along the way in the form of the solos they created based on the tune’s changes.
More of the same can be found on Paul’s 2006 release Go To Plan B [Consolidated Artists Productions
CAP 998]. This time, Paul, George and John are in the company of Ronnie Cuber on baritone saxophone and John Hicks on piano.
In bringing the musicians on this album together, Paul noted:
“I love the baritone sax and I thought it would be a nice blend with tenor, a dark and rich ensemble sound particularly since Cuber has a hard sound while George's tone is softer. I have a very good rapport with John Jenkins and George Allgaier, both of whom I knew from
. We have a good kinship and camaraderie; they really have a feel for my music." Florida
And Scott Yanow commented:
“Paul Brusger's latest set is a delight for hard bop and modern mainstream jazz fans. On Go To Plan B, he contributed six of the selections, with one original apiece from Cuber and Hicks plus the standard "Love Letters." The musicians were challenged by the new material yet sound quite comfortable, swinging hard and with constant creativity.”
Ronnie Cuber has been the subject of a previous profile on the blog which you can find by going here.
On Paul’s recording he absolutely soars. In musician parlance, he plays his backside off. I’ve always been impressed with Ronnie’s ability to get around the baritone saxophone, but on this CD he does so with a fleetness and a ready invention of ideas that is breathtaking at times.
On this outing, Paul puts together an unusual and varied program of originals including a chart that is based on the changes of Coltrane’s Giant Steps [Paul’s Don’t Stop Now] as well as one based on these same changes although this time played backwards – Is What It Is. Talk about challenges!
There’s also a beautiful waltz [Waltz for Lady Nancy], a flag-waver based on the changes to Night and Day [Paul’s Listen Today for Tomorrow’s Answer] and an original from pianist John Hicks [Peaceful Moments] and Ronnie Cuber’s [
]. Ponta Grossa
Special mention needs to be made of tenor saxophonist George Allgaier who comes at the instrument in a way that features ever-changing approaches and styles. And talk about taking chances! George is all over the horn with beautiful and sometimes scarily put together solos. No wonder Paul records with him whenever possible. George’s improvisational journeys really serve to keep the music alive.
Hicks comps beautifully and does what he does best – creates musical solos that fall so softly on the ears.
With Paul and John Jenkins rock solid on the time, the album is a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end.
Paul’s continues this old and new friends format on his next CD – Definitely released on Philology [W733.2] in 2008.
Along with tenor saxophonist George Allgaier and drummer John Jenkins, Paul brought along veteran pianist Hod O’Brien and Philadelphia-based trumpeter John Swana to the date.
Philology’s owner, Paolo Piangiarelli offered these reflections on the music and the musicians in his insert notes:
“This beautiful cd is the tangible, even touching evidence, proving that the new generation of US young jazzmen respects and loves the great tradition of modern jazz developed in the legendary forties by their ingenious precursors: Bird, Diz, Bud, Monk... Respect, love, but also a conscious practice getting deep into a music that was - and stays - complex, well-constructed, tough, delicate and powerful, to be handled and checked with the fundamental creativity and technical skills that these guys have.
So here's a quintet of modern beboppers whose overwhelming sensibility and ability allow them to launch into important solos, of the kind that remains impressed in your memory. The band is directed by wonderful bassist Paul Brusger, who draws new melodic lines of charming, intriguing beauty, in which reminiscences of a great past - never to be denied - add new colours and strengthen the impact with the listeners. The musicians' skills can consequently stand out: John Swana's agile and expressive trumpet, George Allgaier's luxuriant and imaginative sound of tenor sax, the piano lesson offered by the mythical Hod O'Brien and the rhythmic subtlety owned by the agile and propelling drummer John Jenkins, the group's engine. …
Once again the listener is treated to a varied program of Paul’s originals all written more or less in the style of hard bop championed by groups such as Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
But here again, although the manner of writing has much in common with the modern Jazz of the decades of the 1950s and 1960s, Paul makes the tunes sound fresh through small adjustments to the harmonies, being careful to play them in the right tempos and by creating melodic platforms for today’s young players like John Swana and George Allgaier to express their newer approaches to improvising.
There’s a lot of new music here. With the exception of a repeat of Waltz for Lady Nancy, Paul contributes nine, previously unrecorded tunes to the date; not an easy thing to do while still keeping the music interesting and distinct.
Some guys have a gift for composition and Paul Brusger is one of those guys.
One hears so often these days about Jazz not being what is used to be and that today’s players don’t have anything appealing to offer.
The music on these CDs by Paul Brusger and his pals provide over three hours of Jazz composed and played at the highest levels of professionalism and artistic expression, all of which serve as a living contradiction to such a nonsensical assertion.
If these recordings are any indication, Jazz is in good hands.
It must be nice to have friends, er… pals like Paul’s!
The following video contains a sample track from one of Paul’s CDs.
© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
Today - October 8, 2014 - is the release date of bassist, composer and arranger Paul Brusger's latest CD on Nils Winther's venerable Steeplechase label.
Entitled Waiting for the Next Trane [SCCD 33115] it features Gary Smulyan on baritone sax, Mike LeDonne on piano and Louis Hayes on drums along with more of Paul's inventive, hard-bop inflected, original compositions. If you like the music of Horace Silver, Sonny Clark and Hank Mobley, then you will feel right at home with Paul's writing.
Paul kindly asked me to put together some insert notes for the CD and I thought you might enjoy reading them, too.
"Musicians are often better known through the company they keep and bassist Paul Brusger keeps very good company.
To drop a few names - trumpet players Valery Ponomarev, John Swana, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber and pianists Dado Moroni, Hod O’Brien and John Hicks - all have played on Paul’s previous recordings.
Paul’s major influence as a bassist was the late, great Paul Chambers and one can also hear echoes of “Mr. P.C.” and that of bassists Oscar Pettiford, Wilbur Ware and Doug Watkins in the way he lays down his bass lines and in the notes he chooses to frame the chords.
Paul is also a gifted composer who writes in a style that could be called “Brusger’s Bop” as his Jazz compositions are written in the straight-ahead, hard-bop style often associated with Tadd Dameron, Horace Silver, Gigi Gryce and Sonny Clark.
When combined, all of these ingredients – working with first-rate musicians, being influenced by one of the great Jazz bassist and a writing style that is closely patterned after the style of legendary Jazz composers - form a larger context for a visit with the music of Paul Brusger.
Paul is the sum of all these parts: he plays well, associates himself with exceptional musicians who all get to play the intriguing and interesting music that he has composed.
These unifying threads all come together once more on Waiting for The Next Trane.
On his first outing for the legendary Steeplechase label, Paul continues to put himself in good musical company, this time with the musical talents of baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan, pianist Mike LeDonne and drummer Louis Hayes.
Gary plays the baritone saxophone with verve, vigor and vitality. He is a risk-taker. Gary expresses what he hears in his head and feels in his heart, not always an easy thing to do when you have to take a deep breath and blow it through the equivalent of a compressed central plumbing system to make music.
But that's the nature of Jazz: overcoming the technical problems of playing an instrument while at the same time creating interesting melodies on the spot.
You can't take anything back that you've just put out there. There's is no safety net.
The Act of Creation is rarely seen for what it really is - An Act of Courage.
And no one on today's Jazz scene has more sang-froid than Gary Smulyan.
Gary’s sound on baritone sax is very reminiscent of that of the late, Pepper Adams. But while Pepper is certainly a point of departure for him, Smulyan has moved well-beyond Adams’ influence and has established his own style on the instrument, one that also displays a considerable and very advanced technique.
If truth be told, as much as I enjoy Gary Smulyan’s playing, I have to “take it in small doses” as he puts so many ideas into his improvisations and swings so hard all the time that he [figuratively] wears me out. The marvel is that he doesn't wear himself out!
Quite the contrary, it seems, as each in-person performance or recording is better than the previous one. Gary’s work continually grows in stature and complexity; signs of a mature artist at work.
There appears to be no limits to his artistic creativeness; he’s a veritable musical fountain from which well-constructed phrases and lines come bubbling forth to form chorus-upon-chorus of interesting solos.
All this imaginative energy no doubt stems from his passion for playing Jazz, a zeal that apparently knows no bounds.
Like Paul Brusger, pianist Mike LeDonne is an extremely skillful composer, whose services have been in such great demand that he has appeared on over 50 recordings as a leader or as a sideman during the past 25 years.
It’s nice to hear him back at the piano as many of his recent recordings have featured Mike’s exceptional abilities as a Hammond B-3 organist.
Over the years, Mike has studied with fabled Jazz pianists Jaki Byard and Barry Harris while checking out major piano stylists like Teddy Wilson, Al Haig, Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, Ray Bryant and Cedar Walton in some of the smaller, more intimate clubs when he first arrived on the New York Jazz scene.
In the introduction to a 2009 interview with Mike for Jazz.com, Thomas Pena wrote:
“What a career it’s been for Mike. Speaking to him is like taking a crash course in the history of Jazz. It seems that he has performed, recorded, and/or rubbed elbows with everyone in the world of jazz at one time or another.”
The list of Jazz luminaries with whom Mike has worked includes Benny Golson, Milt Jackson, and Scott Robinson and, more recently: Eric Alexander, Wycliffe Gordon, Jim Snidero and five recordings under Gary Smulyan’s leadership.
Mike also commented in the 2009 Jazz.com interview: “I feel good. I still want to improve, and I wanted to get to another level. There are always guys that you listen to, guys like McCoy Tyner and say, ‘Wow! I would like to be able to play like that…..’”
Judging by his work on this CD, it sounds like all of Mike’s wishes about improving and getting to another level have been granted, including the one about McCoy Tyner because in some of his soloing, McCoy’s influence is very apparent.
And what more can be said about Louis Hayes - Paul’s choice for the drum chair on this date? I’ve lost count of the number of memorable groups Louis has worked with and recordings that he has appeared on over the last half century including his long associations with Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver and Oscar Peterson.
His profile on drummerworld.com contains the following description of his gifts:
“For more than fifty years, Hayes has been a catalyst for energetic unrelenting swing in self-led bands, as well as, in those whose respective leaders reads like an encyclopedia of straight-ahead, post-bop modern Jazz. ….
With so much activity in his past, Louis could easily rest comfortably on his laurels. But being a forward thinker and doer, Hayes operates in the present with his current group boasting some of the cream of the recent crop of Jazz artists. Louis Hayes possess and embarrassment of riches. His story, still being told, contains a glorious past, a vibrant present and an ever promising future.”
Bassist, Chuck Israels once described the relationship he wanted to achieve when working with a drummer this way:
"When I listen to the drummer and the bass player together, I like to hear wedding bells. You play every beat in complete rhythmic unity with the drummer, thousands upon thousands of notes together, night after night after night. If it’s working, it brings you very close. It’s a kind of emotional empathy that you develop very quickly. The relationship is very intimate.”
Paul and Louis develop such a marriage between bassist and drummer on this outing and it represents another testimony to Louis adaptability and flexibility as a masterful musician.
Whatever the setting, Louis just makes it happen.
The music on this recording is made up of eight originals by Paul and a beautiful rendition of Quincy Jones’ Quintessence. Listeners often wonder what the source of inspiration is for original compositions, but rarely get the chance to ask the composer where the music comes from. With this in mind, I asked Paul if he would make some comments about each of his tunes.
In a Minor Funk “is simply my take on the kind of groove Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers would come up with.
It’s In There Somewhere “is a play on words on Out of Nowhere. My song uses the same changes and I wrote it in the style of Tadd Dameron and Gigi Gryce, two of my favorites composers.”
When Will You Ever Learn “is aimed at me because sometimes I tend to be too stubborn and looks for a perfection that gets in the way of the music. Like Gary Smulyan is fond of saying: “Jazz has warts.’”
Waiting For The Next Trane “is my tribute to John Coltrane. “Will there be such an influence as great as his ever again?”
Andrea’s Delight “was written for my youngest daughter. It has a pretty melody with a demanding harmonic sequence that descends in a seemingly never-ending spiral of minor thirds.”
“I choose Quincy Jones’ Quintessence for the date because it has a main ingredient that all good music must have - it’s got soul.”
Bird’s In The Yard “is my tribute to Charlie Parker, the first and foremost influence in all of modern Jazz.”
Bringing Home The Silver “is written as a samba because I wanted it to be an ideal showcase for the great Louis Hayes who held down the drum chair in Horace Silver’s quintet for many years.”
All But One “is the very first composition that I ever wrote. It is spiritual in nature and is meant to convey that we all come from different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds, yet we are all part of this human experience called Life.”
In characterizing Paul’s music for Definitely, a compact disc that he released on his Philology label [W733.2] in 2008, Paolo Piangiarelli said:
“This beautiful CD provides tangible, even touching evidence which proves that
the new generation of US young jazzmen respects and loves the great tradition of modern jazz developed in the legendary forties by their ingenious precursors: Bird, Diz, Bud, Monk... Respect, love, but also a conscious practice of getting deep into a music that was - and stays - complex, well-constructed, tough, delicate and powerful, to be handled and checked with the fundamental creativity and technical skills that these guys have.
The band is directed by wonderful bassist Paul Brusger, who draws new melodic lines of charming, intriguing beauty, in which reminiscences of a great past - never to be denied - add new colours and strengthen the impact with the listeners. The musicians' skills can consequently stand out….”
Although the manner of writing has much in common with the modern Jazz of the decades of the 1950s and 1960s, Paul makes the tunes sound fresh through small adjustments to the harmonies, being careful to play them in the right tempos and by creating melodic platforms for Gary and Mike to express their own approach to improvising.
Some guys have a gift for composition and Paul Brusger is one of those guys.
One hears so often these days about Jazz not being what is used to be and that today’s players don’t have anything appealing to offer.
The music on Waiting for The Next Trane is Jazz composed and played at the highest levels of professionalism and artistic expression by Gary, Mike, Paul and Louis.
If this recording is any indication, Jazz is in good hands as it goes forward into the 21st century."