Monday, July 9, 2012

Harry Carney, Trains & Strings

Many people think adding string section to jazz was something producers forced on jazz musicians  to make their music more approachable for the average listener; making it more commercial as they used to say. Norman Granz, the legendary jazz impresario, offers an antithesis to this concept by stating that it was jazz musicians who were constantly asking for such accompaniment, believing that they can show their mastery in playing ballads - especially if they were equipped with reed instruments - by having a fluent, romantic background that string section usually endows to music.

Personally, I have nothing against romanticizing jazz, as I believe jazz is one of the last embodiments of the romantic approach to art, especially if it is executed by a giant such as Harry Carney, my favorite Baritone sax player of the first half of the 20th century.

The baritone saxophone has a heavy tone. It is difficult to shape, or to break down its solemnity. However it has a kind roundness in tone which can easily flow against the string section, and that's exactly what Carney achieves here. Though in the track I've selected for this occasion the presence of strings has been kept to minimum (of course, I'm not counting Ray Nance's resilient violin solo), still the charm and elegance it gives to this classic tune makes us understand why everybody was after strings.

From December 13, 1954 sessions of Harry Carney with Strings at the Fine Sound studio in New York City, produced by Mr. Granz (Clef LP MGC 604), listen to Billy Strayhorn/Duke Ellington's Take the "A" Train. Arrangement by Ralph Burns.

Other musicians involved in the session are: Harry Carney (baritone sax), Tony Miranda (frh), Ray Nance (t,vln), Jimmy Hamilton (cl,ts), Mac Ceppos, Martin Donegan, Ben Gerrard, Howard Kay, Eugene Orloff, Sylvan Shulman, Zelly Smirnoff, Isadore Zir (vln), Sidney Edwards, Doris Johnson, Alan Shulman (vc), Leroy Lovett (p), Billy Bauer (g), Wendell Marshall (b), Louie Bellson (d).


  1. What a great treat, Ehsan! Thanks so much for the inadvertent recommendation. I'm collecting jazz soloists with strings (and also versions of 'Take The 'A' Train'), and so, this will my next to-go-for LP, although I doubt I will find it soon.

    May be you know that I have posted one of Harry Carney's solos recently?

    Feel free to go here and join the fun. This is probably Harry Carney's longest feature.

    1. I'm glad to hear that you are a fan of strings and take them seriously. And thanks for giving the link to the Carney post.