Apples and Oranges
Posi-Tone, the highly selective label that only issues about a dozen recordings annually, a label that we began covering on these pages this year, now releases Doug Webb’s Apples & Oranges, the latest from the veteran saxophonist and composer, one of the label’s longest tenured artists. Some of the tracks evoke some of those great soul jazz/hard bop albums from the likes of Stanley Turrentine, Hank Mobley and Tina Brooks. But listen some more because Webb is highly versatile and can just as easily sound like Dexter Gordon or George Coleman. Go ahead, you could probably name a few more. Read on and some aspects of Webb’s background will floor you.
This trio setting with noted organist and frequent collaborator Brian Charette and multi-genre drummer Andy Sanesi playing “in the pocket” is the perfect configuration for Webb’s robust, soulful tone and lyricism for this straight-ahead set. Yet, Webb displays a variety of styles across his six originals, some highly improvisational like “Forethought,” as well as elegant playing on standards from Rogers and Hart (“Spring Is Here”) and Duke Ellington (“In a Sentimental Mood”). Webb has developed a stellar reputation as a ballad player which these takes attest to. He takes elongated solos that hearken back to that golden age of tenor madness, best exemplified on his own “Monkey Face.” Also, he delivers a devastating interpretation of The Rascals pop hit, “How Can I Be Sure,” which is the only tune he plays on soprano and is a standout. There’s even some Afro-Cuban flavoring as heard in “Coruba” where he is aggressively all over his horn and he renders a samba in “Estate.”
Webb continues to be the go-to saxophonist on the Los Angeles film and television scene with over 30 years in the business, and over 500 recordings. (One publication claims that he has appeared on over 1000 records). In the last decade, Webb has also been focusing on his own work as a bandleader and jazz musician, releasing several critically acclaimed records. Apples & Oranges is Webb’s tenth Posi-Tone release and follows these leader albums, mostly with quartets except Triple Play which featured a front line of three saxophonists – Fast Friends (2018), Bright Side (2016), Back East (2015), Triple Play (2015), Another Scene (2013), Swing Shift (2011), Last Trane To Georgia (2011), Renovations (2010), and Midnight (2010).
Webb has been quoted as saying that he’s never turned down a gig. He didn’t make his first album as a leader until he was 47, ten years ago. Consider this pedigree. Webb got his start with Freddie Hubbard’s band when he was in his twenties and played in that band until health issues forced Hubbard away from performing in the nineties. From there Webb moved to Horace Silver’s band and after that to Stanley Clarke, where he’s been a member of Clarke’s unit for decades. Clarke even joined Webb as a sideman for the first two Posi-tone releases. Clarke says this, “In jazz music there are traditions that many of us hold near and dear to our hearts. Some of us show that respect in composition and performance. I like Doug because he’s not afraid to honor those traditions, and even though any good jazz musician will always echo the past, Doug has the unique ability to sit on top of all those influences and truly sound like himself”
Webb grew up in California, where he began playing the clarinet at the age of eight and added saxophone and flute at fifteen. After receiving a Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Webb moved back to Southern California, and since then has been an in-demand saxophonist for television, film, and music. Over his career Webb has played and recorded with other notable talents such as, Horace Tapscott, Billy Higgins Sal Marquez, Quincy Jones, Mat Marucci, Kyle Eastwood, Billy Childs, Rod Stewart, Carly Simon, Art Davis, Kenny Rogers, Bonnie Raitt, and Pancho Sanchez, and has been featured on over 150 jazz recordings. He was a member of Doc Severinsen’s big band for 15 years. He has recorded music for hundreds of movies and television programs, including Family Guy and Law And Order (sax solo on the title theme). Webb’s solos can be heard on the soundtracks of many films, including Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Jersey Boys, and Gran Torino. You could say he is Clint Eastwood’s go-to sax player we suppose.
One gets the impression that Webb could play virtually anything. His career reflects it and even this album echoes strains that we’ve heard in jazz for the past six decades or more. This is a trio of the finest caliber and as Clarke says, they “sit on top of all those influences,” prompting this writer, and maybe you as well, to delve deeper into Webb’s catalog.
- Jim Hynes