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For 'Ed's Next Move,' Along Came Benny

ALL THAT JAZZ

October 18, 1996|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tenor saxophonist Benny Golson may not exactly be a household jazz name. But play a few lines from such memorable Golson compositions as "I Remember Clifford," "Killer Joe," "Whisper Not," "Stablemates" and "Along Came Betty," and the light will dawn for most listeners. In the late '50s and early '60s, he was one of the first young players to break through the then-popular "cool" tenor saxophone sound with references to the more muscular timbres of Don Byas and Lucky Thompson, and he has recently returned to prominence as an influential jazz veteran.

Less known is that Golson, an articulate and thoughtful observer of the entertainment scene, spent a fairly lengthy stretch in the '60s and '70s working in the recording studios and composing music for films before returning to full-time jazz activities in the '80s.

"My first assignment, 'The Devil's Brigade,' was from [film composer] Alex North," he recalls. "I did what's called 'period music'--everything from a George Shearing-style jazz group to an 18th century gavotte."

Although Golson wrote music for television shows such as "MASH" and "The Partridge Family," he quickly encountered what he describes as a ceiling that has made it difficult for him and other African American composers to rise to the top of the film scoring profession.

"The usual excuse was that they wanted the experience of the classically trained guys," Golson says. "But the classical guys walked a much narrower corridor than we did, and we were far better rounded than they were."

He finally decided to make the move back to jazz when "the door started closing."

"Until then," adds the New York-based Golson, 67, "I'd been getting large crumbs, but then even the crumbs started getting smaller."

Golson has returned to film scoring with music for Orion Classics' "Ed's Next Move," currently in local theaters, and its soundtrack on Milan/BMG. Typically, his cues (several of which are attractive jazz numbers on their own) focus on a wide range of rhythmic jazz styles, enlivened by his characteristic flair for melody. But there are a few moments in which a darker, more pensive Golson emerges. It would be nice to think that an enterprising producer somewhere will see the film and give Golson the big film scoring assignment he is so capable of writing.

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Picture This: Photographer William Claxton's "Jazz," one of the finest collections of jazz photographs ever published, is now available in a paperback edition (Chronicle Books, $22.95). The images, in black and white, are extraordinary: anonymous street musicians in New Orleans; a celebratory Mahalia Jackson; a stunningly evocative, double-page shot of a street scene outside New York City's Birdland; a thoughtful Duke Ellington; Charlie Parker with three fans; a clowning Paul Desmond at the piano. The photos are vital to jazz fans. But beyond that relatively parochial arena, they illustrate Claxton's remarkable ability to capture the essence of the human spirit.

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On the Bandstand: Kenny Burrell and the Jazz Heritage All Stars play tonight and Saturday at the Jazz Bakery. . . . Susie Hanson brings her stirring Latin jazz to the Rose Cafe in Venice today from 8-11 p.m. and to the Industry Hills Sheraton on Sunday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. . . . On Sunday afternoon, the BEEM Foundation, an organization devoted to providing scholarships for young musicians, holds its annual jazz brunch at the Airport Wyndham Hotel, with music by the Buddy Collette Quintet, 2 p.m. (Info: [213] 956-2469). . . . The Jazz Bakery on Sunday night will feature a rare appearance by the gifted veteran jazz singer Carol Sloane.

Free Music: The Pete Jolly Trio appears at Pedrini Music in Alhambra, Saturday at 1:30 p.m. . . . The Pasadena Baked Potato, Sunday at 8 p.m, will host a no-cover-charge album release celebration with refreshments and a performance by bassist Larry Steen and his World-Jazz Ensemble.

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