Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene

Former Ellington orchestra tenorist recalls Paul Gonsalves in a generally hard-swinging set where even the ballads get a rough edge


Ford’s quartet session here is a hard-edged set featuring seven of his own compositions with two written by Coleman Hawkins along with Hank Jones’ Angel Face. Ellington’s Frustration completes the programme.

Ford began life as a tenor soloist in the Duke Ellington band headed up by Mercer, just after the founder died. Paul Gonsalves went at about the same time and Ford came in to replace him. Ford pays tribute to Paul here with his chart Paul’s Scene. It is a headlong piece taking in shades of Basie swing and referencing Parker with quotes from Crazeology and Cherokee.

Ford has a burnished sound on tenor, hard swinging and none too subtle. He cruises through several uptempo pieces barely pausing to take a breath on most of them. He can and does play ballads with feeling although the sound is still quite hard and can be unrelenting. Jerome Harris takes a lean solo on bass guitar and veteran drummer Altschul gets a few brief flurries but there are few opportunities for pianist Soskin to solo. A missed opportunity for variety there I feel.

The leader scurries through each selection with a high level of invention on each track. He is a hard swinger in the Coleman Hawkins, Paul Gonsalves tradition although he does not indulge in the latter’s penchant for 10-minute solos. All except one of these tunes is under five minutes in length.

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)
Ford (ts); Mark Soskin (p); Jerome Harris (elb); Barry Altschul (d). NYC, 25 June 2021.
Whaling City Sound WCS 135