Steve Provizer (pictured, left) posted on his Brilliant Corners blog a treatise on vibrato. He was inspired to do so by Sidney Bechet (1897-1959), the cantankerous genius who made the soprano saxophone a jazz instrument and was the king of vibrato. Steve includes links to performances by celebrated vibratoists, including Bechet, and one by Wild Bill Davison that borders on parody. He also sends us to antivibratoists like Miles Davis, Bix Beiderbecke and Lester Young. You could easily spend an hour just listening to Steve’s links. To see his post, click here.
As sometimes happens in the blogosphere, Provizer’s post inspired Bruno Leicht (pictured,right), halfway across the world in Cologne, to follow up with thoughts about Harry James. James is perhaps not the first trumpeter you would think of if you were in search of vibrato-free playing. Nonetheless, Bruno provides a lovely example of him playing a ballad with a big, fat, nearly vibratoless tone. To hear it, go to BrewLite’s Jazz Tales here.
As for Bechet, here he is in the late 1950s with musicians in France, where he made his home from 1951 until his death. He uses vibrato throughout and with a vengeance toward the end of his long sustained high G or A-flat (or, in this film, somewhere in between).