Thursday, April 9, 2009

But Beautiful -- Charles McPherson, alto sax

The jazz ballad But Beautiful has music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke.

Charles McPherson – alto sax
Steve Kuhn – piano
David Williams – bass
Leroy Williams – drums

Charles McPherson was born in Joplin, Missouri, but moved to Detroit at age nine. McPherson started playing jazz professionally at age 19, moving to New York in 1959. He performed with Charles Mingus from 1960 to 1972, collaborating frequently George Coleman (tenor sax).

McPherson was recently featured at Lincoln Center showcasing his original compositions and arrangements with a seven piece ensemble. McPherson has recorded as guest artist with Charlie Mingus, Barry Harris, Art Farmer, Kenny Drew, Toshiko Akiyoshi, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Charles was also the featured alto saxophonist in the Clint Eastwood film "Bird," a biography about Charlie Parker.

McPherson remains a strong, viable force on the jazz scene today. He is at the height of his powers. His playing combines passionate feeling with intricate patterns of improvisation. Throughout his four decades of being an integral performer of the music, Charles has not merely remained true to his BOP origins, but has expanded on them.

The distinctive lyrics, with their clever rhymes, come through clearly in this interpretation by Nat King Cole:

Love is funny, or it's sad,
Or it's quiet, or it's mad.
It's a good thing, or it's bad,
But beautiful...

Beautiful to take a chance
And if you fall, you fall,
And I'm thinking,
I wouldn't mind at all.

Love is tearful, or it's gay,
It's a problem, or it's play.
It's a heartache either way,
But beautiful...

And I'm thinking, if you were mine,
I'd never let you go.
And that would be but beautiful,
I know.

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