The Wailing Sounds Of Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene

Venerable Ellington tenor saxophonist tips his hat to early influences Gonsalves and Hawkins as well as referencing Rollins and Getz


Tenor saxophonist Ricky Ford has been on the scene for some time now, producing a number of highly regarded albums under his own name and this quartet recording finds him tipping his hat to early influences: Paul Gonsalves and Coleman Hawkins.

It’s a mixture of self-penned compositions and those of others and the title track, Paul’s Scene, is a tribute to Gonsalves, his predecessor in Ellington’s band and with whom he had family links. It’s a beboppish number, referencing Crazeology amongst other things. Duke’s Frustration is also included, and Ford’s lower-register playing is reminiscent of Ellington horn players.

Another important figure in Ford’s world is Hawkins, whose bravura swing, slight vibrato and abrasive edge are reflected in The Essence Of You, Stockholm Stomp and the ballad Angel Face. Paris Fringe recalls his time living in the French capital and playing with Abdullah Ibrahim, with its African spirit and rhythm.

Although no specific indication is given, elements of Sonny Rollins are evident, not least in Fer, almost a diversion down Green Dolphin Street, the calypso feel of That Red Clay and the extended runs on I Can’t Wait To See You. The rhythm section work steadily, with occasional opportunities (notably drummer Altschul on Fer and Paul’s Scene) but this is essentially Ford’s spotlight as he breezes through a tenor saxophonist’s lexicon.

Ricky’s Bossa gives us a taste of Getz, but this relaxed piece slightly disappoints, although it’s more than made up for by the adventurous and exciting The Wonder. An interesting inclusion is Kenny Graham’s Mabulala, with its Moondog-inspired rhythmic movement, which Harry Carney recorded on The Duke’s Men in 1960, with, appropriately, Gonsalves.

It’s an album for anyone who enjoys big, muscular sounding tenors and its booklet includes an extended appreciation by Benny Golson.

Ricky’s Bossa; Fer; The Wonder; That Red Clay; The Essence Of You; The Stockholm Stomp; Angel Face; Paris Fringe; I Can’t Wait To See You; Paul’s Scene; Frustration; Mabulala. (51.30)
Ricky Ford (ts); Mark Soskin (p); Jerome Harris (b); Barry Altschul (d). New York, 25 June 2021.
Whaling City Sound WCS135