Bud Shank, one of the great alto saxophonists of the cool-jazz era, outlived his fame–but not his talent. I was lucky enough to see one of his last New York appearances, a 2003 gig at the Jazz Standard about which I wrote in this space:
As I listened to Shank cleave the air with his flame-thrower tone and remembered that he was born in 1926, I asked myself, How does he do it? Of course it’s possible to play alto saxophone like that when you’re that old (I heard Benny Carter play as well–though with less stamina–when he was a decade older), but it’s a long, long way from possible to probable. And did that faze Shank? Not in the slightest. He stood up in front of a world-class rhythm section that was lobbing musical hand grenades into the crowd and soloed like a man half his age, if that….
Shank was working up to the end, literally: he finished recording an album the day before he died. Not a bad way to go.
If you don’t know Shank’s playing, this album is the place to start.
The JazzTimes obituary is here.
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Here’s the trailer for Against the Tide, a 2008 documentary about Shank: