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Houston Person is coming to Buffalo at the end of October, and I've been asked to have a pre-concert "conversation" (the gig's at an art gallery, so they do this sort of thing) about where HP fits into the "Boss Tenor" tradition.

Which has gotten me thinking about The Jazz Tenor in general -- it seems to me the tenor *more than any other instrument in jazz* has been codified into distinct "classes": the Chicago school, Texas tenors, Boss tenors, etc., based mainly on similarities in sound and phrasing.

Moreover, categorizing tenors started early in the music's history, so that not long after Coleman Hawkins "invented" THE jazz tenor approach, ditching slap tonguing and pairing his big sound with aspects of Louis Armstrong's phrasing, Lester Young came along with more melodic lines, and softer tone and phrasing.

Once those approaches were recognized, every subsequent tenor player was weighed and measured to see if he was a Hawkins guy or a Young guy.

Meanwhile, emerging from these 2 main branches were the regional schools mentioned above: the Chicago school and the Texas Tenors, along with groups of players who shared certain traits and affinities, like the Boss Tenors. (I seem to remember Dave Liebman, just slightly tongue in cheek, putting himself in the Brooklyn Jews school, with Steve Grossman and Bob Berg, and with Philly-born Michael Brecker as a later "honorary" member...)

Anyways, I'd love to hear from anyone who has any thoughts about this admittedly geeky subject area in jazz history. What other "tenor schools" are out there (like those California guys: Dexter most prominent among them...)? Anyone disagree with my notion that no other jazz instrument has been quite so "codified" as the tenor? What "schools" are out there for other instruments?
 

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I think this is a pretty obscure classification. I've been playing tenor most of my life. Listening to tenor players most of my life and I never classified them or heard of others classifying them. I've heard of Texas Tenors but that has just been on SOTW. I know Boss Tenors because of the album but that's it. I have no idea which player is in which group.
 

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I think this is a pretty obscure classification.
Like I say, it's kind of geeky, but I know there are players out there of a similar bent, 'cuz I run into them and we hash over this stuff! I used to voraciously read liner notes, and that got me started in this direction.

It's gotten to the point that ... well, for example, I can tell you that on this date, September 25, Lee Konitz recorded with Joe Henderson, and Ike Quebec was in the recording studio. I know this not from an online source, but because I made a database of my recordings... I can tell you how many times John Coltrane recorded Cole Porter tunes.

I knew about the Hawkins vs. Young schools already in high school, and knew about the Chicago school soon after. I read jazz histories for pleasure, what can I say?!? I've actually been paid as a jazz writer over the years, and every now and then -- like this time -- I'm asked to talk about this stuff.

I mean, I don't *think* I'm going Jazz Rain Man here, but: "Kmart sucks!"
 

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Hey Kelly,

I have heard of tenor players being classified like this...it might be geeky but fun too. Actually I think a few jazz history texts like to classify tenors like this and I know for sure that I have this large book with Rollins on the front, it's a sort of abbreviated history of the saxophone, that also classifies saxophonists in this way so there is definitely a precedent for it. I think you're right about general classifications coming out of regional groups. It makes sense when you think of how many sax players from the same area used to hang out together, listen to music together and practice together. Many of them probably had the same teachers when they were growing up. They were influenced by the same music and musicians. I think you gave a good example of this with Liebman, Grossman, Berg group, I'd also add Bergonzi to that group I've always heard of it described as a group coming out of the 1970s New York Loft scene. Again, they were all hanging out and playing together.

Speaking of the Boss Tenors, I have a pretty close relationship with Nathan Davis. He played a few Boss Tenor concerts with Sonny Stitt. Stitt apparently really liked them to play up the tenor battles on stage, he wanted Davis to look like he was getting mad at him to create this dramatic tension that the crowd came to see and really enjoyed.

As far as other instruments I've seen a lot of family tree type classification of one musician developing along a stylistic path (like Winton) but not so much groups of contemporaries being classified together.
 

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I used to voraciously read liner notes, and that got me started in this direction."
Those old liner notes are the best. I feel like I got a better jazz history lesson from reading them (and listening to the music) than any text book. I was probably as excited to read the liner notes as I was to hear the music when I got a new recording
 

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I've definitely heard of all the "Tenor Sax" schools of playing that you mentioned and I'm guilty of lumping certain players into said groups. I don't think those categories apply that much with younger player but it was common when I was in college, especially when talking about the East Coast Jewish school of Tenor sax players. I think there are so many sax player now who have such a wide range of influences that it harder to put them into those simple categories. But I still find myself listening to cats play and try to fit them into groups or schools of playing that I'm familiar with. It may just be a generational thing, I'm sure musicians that are over 40 often say "so and so was a great Texas Tenor player" or "so and so is coming out of that West Coast school." and in my opinion there were some great players that fit into those so called "schools" of playing...
 

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Those old liner notes are the best. I feel like I got a better jazz history lesson from reading them (and listening to the music) than any text book. I was probably as excited to read the liner notes as I was to hear the music when I got a new recording
...I miss great liner notes...
 

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I categorize my own style as Middle Manager Tenor. Look sharp, keep things moving, and if you step on your d¢!k, be sure and find a graceful way out.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Ok, Just for my sake,........can we talk about who is in what school. I have no idea about the Chicago School. Is George Coleman in that one?
Totally man! Here's what I can recite off the top of my head, dammit:

The "Chicago tenor school" is made up of players who studied under Captain Walter Dyatt at Dusable High School. Members of the school include Clifford Jordan, John Gilmore, and Johnny Griffin (I'm forgetting some, I think), with Von Freeman the only surviving "Chicago school" player. The group is characterized by their sound, a fat dark tone with a "cry" in the upper register.

George Coleman ain't one of these guys -- wasn't he from Memphis or something?

Here's a great piece on the Texas Tenors, including sound samples:

Titans of the Tough Toned Texas Tenor
 

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Bud Freeman (no relation) was a tenorist of the Chicago school (of White jazz), but had nothing to do with the Chicago school (of tenor playing). Infinite distinctions in infinite categories of infinite things.
 

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Bud Freeman (no relation) was a tenorist of the Chicago school (of White jazz), but had nothing to do with the Chicago school (of tenor playing).
Whoa: you're getting übergeeky! I'm sure you've read Studs Terkel's interview with Bud Freeman, yes?
 

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Nope. Where can I find that?
 

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Nope. Where can I find that?
It's in his book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. It's really a great book with interviews across all of American life, INCLUDING a jazz musician, for heaven's sake! I just checked Google books, and they'll show you the Bud Freeman heading, but won't let you look at the text...
 

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How about Upstate NY Italian/American tenors?......Sal Nistico, Joe Romano, Sam Falzone, Don Menza
 

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The "Chicago tenor school" is made up of players who studied under Captain Walter Dyatt at Dusable High School.
According to the wikipedia entry, there's quite a list of significant jazzers hailing from "old DuSable High" that came up through Capt. Walter Dyett's programs... Eddie Harris, Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, John Gilmore, Nat Cole, Julian Priester, Johnny Hartman, Clifford Jordan... a virtual who's who of Chicago based musicians.

A lot of different styles, but a common connection too.

As far as categorization, for some reason people have used various classifications over the years to describe various tenor players and their lineage. I've definitely thought of music having a Texas sound, KC sound, NY sound, Memphis sound, West Coast, etc. Or at least flavors drawn from those areas.

But, there are some who had such an individual approach I wouldn't look at them based on specific genre/regional sounds... Armstrong, Ellington, Parker, Coltrane, Monk, Miles, Ornette... Charlie Haden would call those people "beyond categorization"... I just think of them as their own environments altogether.
 

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I categorize my own style as Middle Manager Tenor. Look sharp, keep things moving, and if you step on your d¢!k, be sure and find a graceful way out.
That kind of no-nonsense positive attitude is going to look very good in your quarterly evaluation, young man. Wouldn't surprise me to hear about someone getting bumped up to DISTRICT Middle Manager soon!
 

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How about Upstate NY Italian/American tenors?......Sal Nistico, Joe Romano, Sam Falzone, Don Menza
kfoster, this is PERFECT! I hadn't even thought of this, and it's so obvious! They're gonna be a Buffalo crowd, and they'll eat this up! By the way, I've mentioned this before, but there ain't no feeling quite like the feeling of playing your gig and having Falzone or Menza walk into the room. You just want to hand them your tenor and say "Sorry, this belongs to you!"

According to the wikipedia entry, there's quite a list of significant jazzers hailing from "old DuSable High" that came up through Capt. Walter Dyett's programs... Eddie Harris, Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, John Gilmore, Nat Cole, Julian Priester, Johnny Hartman, Clifford Jordan... a virtual who's who of Chicago based musicians.
Gene Ammons was the other Big Name I was missing. And Eddie Harris -- THAT I didn't know...
 

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