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Al Cohn Gives 'Em One For The Record At Alfonse's

May 02, 1986|LEONARD FEATHER

It's history now, but for the record (and what a record it would have made if tapes had been on hand!), Al Cohn played Tuesday and Wednesday at Alfonse's in Toluca Lake.

The tenor saxophonist, who for years seemed as inseparable from Zoot Sims as Damon from Pythias, actually has been a vital force in his own right both as soloist and composer.

Cohn has remained as true as any man to the eternal swinging verities of jazz; a master of muscular, fluent statements, he employs his gruffly personal sound in the service of such standards as "My Shining Hour" and "Sweet and Lovely," as well as such rhythmically contagious originals as "Mr. George."

Playing to a packed room that housed dozens of musicians, Cohn was impeccably supported by two contemporaries, pianist Lou Levy and bassist Monty Budwig. On drums was Vince Lateano from San Francisco, a younger musician who at first seemed slightly daunted by the company he was keeping, though before long he settled into a sympathetic groove.

The ballad highlight during Wednesday's first set was "Embraceable You," to which Cohn brought a pleading quality that was compatible with his strong yet subtle timbre. Though there were traces of the early Lester Young influence that once inspired him, it was clear that he has long since found a path of his own, one that has placed him in the forefront of the tenor sax mainstream.

Appropriately, he closes each set with a moderately paced outing on the blues, that perennial lingua franca of jazz. Music like this, with its wholesome, warmly reassuring character, seems likely to outlast any idiomatic fad that may come along.

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