Baritone saxes blending old-school jazz with new

Currently playing at the Half Note Jazz Club, the Baritone Saxophone Band, a sextet featuring three baritone saxes, is truly worth seeing. Ronnie Cuber, Scott Robinson and Howard Johnson, who formed the outfit as a tribute to the late Gerry Mulligan, the artist who championed the baritone sax like no other, blend their playing into a seductive mix of traditional and modern jazz. The act’s one-week run ends tomorrow night. The repertoire features work by Mulligan and Cuber. Kathimerini caught up with Cuber. You’ve collaborated with legendary bands led by figures such as Gil Evans, Woody Herman and Charles Mingus. Could you share some thoughts? It’s not easy to talk about the great masters. They carry a sacred quality. I’ll never forget Gil Evans’s apartment on 55th Street [in NYC]. The door was always open and you could run into Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis, even Charlie Parker, earlier on. I worked with Woody Herman during the period when he was under rock’s influence. I was astonished by his pioneering spirit, despite his advanced age. I realized that major musicians are like children. They refuse to grow up, maintain a restless nature. Mingus was a genius, a multifaceted figure on stage, an enormous personality who made very personal music. I was also influenced by John Coltrane, Cecil Payne and Hank Mobley. Talk about the baritone sax leads one’s thoughts to Gerry Mulligan. How are you continuing this great musician’s legacy? Gerry was the archetype of a great master. He paved the way for all the baritone sax soloists. We simply followed in his footsteps. Our aim nowadays is to preserve Mulligan’s sound on the frontline of modern jazz with hard-bop and post-bop styles, and to make references to some of his lesser-known songs, like the soundtracks he wrote with Johnny Mandel. Until Thursday. Half Note, 17 Trivonianou, Mets, 210.921.3310.

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