Friday, September 16, 2016

The Girl With Sax Appeal

As it's been the case with many women instrumentalists from the early years of jazz, sadly, the name of singer and tenor saxophonist Betty Smith (1929-2011) doesn't mean much today. The cloud of forgetfulness has again cast its dark shadow.

Once dubbed as "the girl with sax appeal", Betty Smith started playing saxophone at the age of 9 and joined an all-girl touring saxophone septet when only 15. Things continued to succeed quickly: at 19 she was married to trumpetist Jack Peberdy; forming her own quintet at the age of 26 and expanding her touring activities to continental Europe and beyond until the 1980s when illness prevented her from further musical activities.

I don't care much about her singing, but her saxophone playing has that mainstream groove and sweet delivery. Case in point: a track from an RCA EP (picture above) featuring Betty Smith on tenor, Terry Walsh on guitar, Brian Lemon on piano, the husband Jack Peberdy on bass, and Stan Bourke on drums, recorded in London, 11 November 1957. It's called Who's Sorry Now?.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tete suite: The Art of Tete Montoliu


If what I've heard from a Spanish friend is true, then Tete Montoliu could be the only jazz musician who didn't need his ears. The story goes that this blind musician who was also an avid football fan, and listening to the live report of El Clásico had a religious significance for him, was often annoyed by the fact that he had to play gigs during the football match. He, rather ingeniously, came up with a solution: putting an earphone in one of his ears which was not visible to the audience and listening to the live report while playing his gig. But the story becomes very complicated when one considers that the Catalan pianist was also half-deaf!

Myth or fact, he was a pianist of outstanding virtuosity and impeccable technique, as seen on various videos of him from the 1970s and 1980s, some of which presented here.

These nice all-star sessions from Spanish National Television shows him in top form in his heydays with a remarkable array of American visitors. This is a superb homage to one of the most distinctive voices in European jazz.

Ron Carter (b), Art Blakey (d)
Barcelona, April 1981


Wynton Marsalis (tp), Bobby Watson (as), Billy Pierce (ts), James Williams (p), Charles Fambrough (b), Art Blakey (d)
Barcelona, April 1981

Billie's Bounce
Brief interview