Song List:
1. Scotch And Milk
2. Wilhelmenia
3. I'm Goin' In
4. If I Should Lose You
5. Que Pasaning
6. Cit Sac
7. Lady Nia
8. Et Vous Too, Cecil?

It is often the unusual combinations of items that make life interesting. In clothing, it may be the wearing of stripes and plaids together. In food, perhaps it is the mixture of Italian and French cuisines. And in beverages, heads may turn when the blend of scotch and milk is ordered. Yet this mixture is not that untoward, one is stimulating to the brain, while the other soothes the stomach. such is the case with this latest Delmark release from the formidable baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne. The uniting of musicians for this drink of Scotch and Milk is most invigorating.

Cecil Payne's name should be a household word among jazz fans. His mastery of an often unwieldy member of the saxophone family, the baritone saxophone, has been evident throughout his career. Cecil Payne was a member of Dizzy Gillespie's famed bebop big band from 1946 to 1949 where he switched from an alto sax to baritone and began to master the language of bebop. While many absorbed only the influence of Charlie Parker, Payne also listened to Lester Young, whose light, lilting tone Payne would incorporate into his own style. Unlike others who used the baritone as a means to produce honks, squeaks, and somewhat non-musical effects, Payne always possessed a facile touch on the horn and a delightful sense of swing.

Scotch and Milk is Cecil Payne's second recording for Delmark. He is reunited with some members of his first recording, Cerupa (Delmark 478), tenor saxist Eric Alexander, pianist Harold Mabern, and bassist John Ore. Scotch and Milk also offers the listener a new version of the great tenor tandems of the past, as Eric Alexander is joined by a legendary Chicago tenor saxophonist, Lin Halliday. They both proceed to liven up the date as they produce chorus after chorus of boss tenor tones. Alexander's tone is more ferocious, exuding energy and drive whereas Halliday uses sparse angular lines to get his points across.

Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, a native of Detroit, Michigan, whose career spanned touring with Little Willie John and stints as a Motown label session musician, is also a member of this ensemble. Belgrave's solo work on "Que Pasaning" focuses on his sound, a sound that is both hardy and fragile. Belgrave has long been performing at exceptional levels, from avant garde excursions to adventures in bebop. The blending of his trumpet and Payne's baritone on Scotch and Milk provide many musical delights. This date also produced a family reunion of sorts, for Payne and Belgrave are cousins.

The title track, "Scotch and Milk" begins with a sort of Scottish highland reel done bebop style. Immediately we are treated to some tour-de-force baritone playing from Payne. As on all the tunes, he seemingly inspires Alexander and Halliday, for they take sizzling solos throughout. Check out the uptempo rom on "Et Vous Too, Cecil?", as Payne proceeds to blow chorus after chorus of driving baritone pushed on by the rest of the band. "If I Should Lose You" shows the gentle, lyrical side of Cecil Payne as he and Harold Mabern perform a heartbreakingly beautiful version of this standard.

Payne is a veteran of the big band era, a time when all the reed section also doubled on other instruments. With the advent of bebop and the age of the soloists, very few contemporary musicians are able to play other instruments. Cecil Payne doubles on a flute, an instrument whose delicacy is in sharp contrast to the robust sound of the baritone sax. His mastery of the flute is displayed on "I'm Goin' In", a soft swinger that emulates the style of those great Art Blakey bands.

The rhythm section of pianist Harold Mabern, bassist John Ore, and drummer Joe Farnsworth displays a natural ease and comfort throughout Scotch and Milk. To keep up the pace for this resolute band of soloists is often a formidable task, and the company of Mabern, Ore and Farnsworth perform brilliantly.

So, the next time you're feeling adventurous beverage-wise, try asking for scotch and milk. It may grow into an acquired habit. Unlike the libation, however, Cecil Payne's version of Scotch and Milk requires no such effort. It's a smooth, satisfying swinger form the first note to the last.

-- Leonard J. Bukowski

Albums featuring Cecil Payne...



Albums featuring Eric Alexander...


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