Stay tuned—the delight of discovery on the radio

Teddy Edwards & Houston Person: Horn to Horn

I love my iPod. I really do. It’s compact and there’s no need to fumble with—or haul around—CDs. And I admit it, there’s something very cool about wearing those iconic white earbuds. As one technowonk put it, leave it to Steve Jobs to make a hard drive sexy.

But there’s one thing it’s missing. A radio. Yeah, I know you can download podcasts, but that’s not the same. There’s no random element in that—you’re still listening to something you’ve chosen. What the radio gives you is surprises. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something on the radio, usually in the car, and have called the radio station to find out what it was, who did it, what album it was on. I’ve made some amazing discoveries this way. Jack O’ Fire, for instance. Brit punk rockers Wire too.

And this gem of an album, Horn to Horn, with the twin tenor saxophones of Teddy Edwards and Houston Person. The track that caught my ear on the radio [our ears—Marion and I were driving to work] was an inspired rendition of Gene Ammons’ Red Top. It was reason enough for me to buy the disk. Funny thing, though, as much as I still like Red Top, it was immediately supplanted as my favorite by the first cut on the album, Coltrane’s Equinox. They come out swinging hard, and you feel like you’ve walked into a little out of the way jazz club on a very good night indeed.

Released in 1999, the album is a tribute to eight tenor sax legends. There’s a track each for Ammons and Coltrane as well as Ben Webster, Lester Young, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Dexter Gordon and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis.

For me, the album works best on the uptempo tracks, despite the fact that Edwards and Person were both self-professed lovers of ballads [Edwards passed away in 2003]. The ballads just feel a little too consciously pretty to me at times. But after multiple active listenings, I’ve started getting into some of the complexity of the jazz conversation going on in them.

Okay, full disclosure time. I’m listening to the album as I write this and have been discounting the ballads even as that old warhorse of a jazz standard, Hawkins’ Body and Soul, is playing. It is amazing. Disregard the previous paragraph.

As much as I’m excited by the avant garde movement in jazz these days, Horn to Horn makes a strong argument for the pleasures of straightahead jazz. It also makes a very strong argument for listening to the radio for that occasional surprise.

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One Response to “Stay tuned—the delight of discovery on the radio”

  1. Pasta Frittata: Elevating scrambled eggs « Blue Kitchen Says:

    […] Stay tuned—the delight of discovery on the radio. Letting someone else program your music can lead to surprising little gems, at What’s on the kitchen boombox? […]

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