Big sounds from the big horn! Baritone saxophone giant Adam Schroeder's Let's brings together a modern day master with guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton set for release on June 17 from Capri Records.
It's always news when an immensely gifted baritone saxophonist like Adam Schroeder releases a recording. Why the baritone - the mighty warhorse of the saxophone family, a horn capable of expressive majesty whether delving deep in the low register or careening in the tonal stratosphere - should have so few present day high profile players is anyone's guess. Still, it's obvious that with the release of Let's - Schroeder's second album as a leader - a mesmerizing baritone virtuoso, one capable of bringing newly deserved exposure to his instrument, is poised to make his mark. Making the most of a gorgeously full bodied tone and a commanding technique that allows him to both burrow deep and to soar, Schroeder reflects the best of such past masters of his instrument as Gerry Mulligan, Serge Chaloff and Pepper Adams, and such dazzling contemporary practitioners as Gary Smulyan and Ronnie Cuber. With expert support from guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, Schroeder glides through a thoroughly pleasurable mainstream program that trains its spotlight on his inspired improvising as well as his engaging and well-crafted originals. Durable tunes by Duke Pearson, Thad Jones, Benny Carter, along with the sturdy standards, "Wrap Your Trouble In Dreams" and "In the Middle of a Kiss," and Stevie Wonder's R&B classic, "You and I (We Can Conquer the World)" round out a memorable recording that wisely places its faith in melodic swing.
"Melodies!" Schroeder emphatically states when speaking of the criteria that he used in selecting his non-original material. "Each of the songs written by others had to have great melodies first and foremost. These are tunes that make you smile when you first hear them, and then reveal their compositional and harmonic depth the more you listen to them. They also offer vast freedom of expression for everyone to improvise on." Schroeder's own pieces, the funky, "Just Clap Your Hands," the alluring mid-tempo ballad, "Patience Endurance, Steady Hope" and the swinging, "A Hawkeye, A Hoosier & Two Cali Cats" among them, possess similarly attractive traits to the more recognizable fare. Whether seasoned or original, each piece allows Schroeder to display his stupendous gifts and to musically meld with his distinguished band mates. "It's awe-inspiring to work with legends like John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton, as it is to play with a great younger player like Anthony Wilson. Musicians like them just want you to succeed. Although you might want to place experienced players like John and Jeff on a pedestal, that's the last place they want to be. They make you feel like part of a family. For them, the music becomes all important."
While a horn and guitar front line may be atypical, Schroeder felt that it was the right fit "sonically -- the timbre of the baritone with that of the guitar works better as far as I'm concerned, than an a baritone and a piano might. That combination can get too muddy."
Although originally a bebop-obsessed alto saxophonist, Schroeder, an Iowa native, switched to baritone in his later high school years. While still in school, Schroeder had the opportunity to play in the college band at Clark Terry's International Institute of Jazz Studies. Among the prestigious artists that the Los Angeles-based baritone virtuoso subsequently performed with over the ensuing decades are Ray Charles, Louie Bellson, Jack Nimitz, Diana Krall, Sting, John Pizzarelli, Chris Botti, Bob Mintzer, Bennie Wallace and Clark Terry, who remains a friend and mentor. Schroeder - whose first album A Handful Of Stars was released on Capri Records in 2010 - is currently associated with, among others, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.