Gary Smulyan – Alternative Contrafacts (2018)

Gary Smulyan - Alternative Contrafacts (2018)
Artist: Gary Smulyan
Album: Alternative Contrafacts
Genre: Post-Bop, Mainstream Jazz
Origin: USA
Released: 2018
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Vodka 07:34
Deep People 05:24
Tale of the Fingers 05:42
Cohn Pone 06:32
Moodamorphosis 07:09
Ahma See Ya 07:45
I’ve Changed 05:22
On the Minute 06:00
Hanid 07:35


When Bird and Diz took the chords of popular songs like “I Got Rhythm” and “Cherokee” and wrote new melodies over them, people called it bebop. Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan opts for the concept’s jazz-education name of “contrafacts.” This trio album brings together eight lesser-known examples of the practice from the late ’40s through the early ’60s—including such “alternatives” to the bop classics as Mal Waldron’s “Vodka,” Ted Curson’s “Ahma See Ya” and Coleman Hawkins’ “Hanid”—along with one of Smulyan’s own contrafacts, “I’ve Changed.”

The erudition displayed in Smulyan’s deep-cut choices is just as clear in his playing. His best solo comes on Gil Fuller and Dave Burns’ “Moodamorphosis,” a sustained feast of brilliantly interconnected ideas. The rhythm section adds special luster to Paul Chambers’ “Tale of the Fingers,” with bassist David Wong giving his bow a workout and drummer Rodney Green trading scintillating eights and fours with Smulyan. Tempos and rhythmic feels don’t vary much from medium swing, but the musicians find new twists where they can. On Jimmy Giuffre’s “Deep People,” for instance, they all leave lots of holes in their parts; each player’s role in relation to the beat—who’s keeping it, who’s playing off it—changes from second to second.

If you’re not familiar with these tunes but still want to try identifying the sources from which they sprang, your harmonic detective work will be complicated by the fact that there’s no chordal instrument present. This makes it harder to tell what changes the musicians are hearing in their heads, and easier for them to veer away from those changes whenever they like. You may as well set your analytical mind on other tasks and just enjoy the buoyant vibes, of which there are plenty.
By Mac Randall