Saxophone bands hold a special place among jazz fans. Reeds playing melody and harmony in unison is tremendously exciting, whether they are alone or as lead instruments in a band. As reeds, they assume a vocal harmony group feel, which engages the ear. That’s why so many saxophone bands have been featured on recordings over the decade. Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of the best ones:
Woody Herman’s Four Brothers band (1947), Gene Roland’s Boppers (1949), The Brothers!—Al Cohn, Bill Perkins and Richie Kamuca (1955), Al Cohn and the Sax Section (1956), Zoot Sims Plays Alto, Tenor and Baritone (1956), Zoot Sims Plays Four Altos (1956), Reeds in Hi-Fi—Pete Rugolo (1956), Four Brothers Together Again! (1957), The Gerry Mulligan Song Book (1957), Hymie Schertzer: All the King’s Saxes (1957), Coleman Hawkins Meets the Big Sax Section (1958), Cross-Section Saxes—Hal McKusick (1958), Saxes Inc.—Bobby Prince and His Orchestra (1959), Ten Saxophones and Two Basses—Pete Rugolo (1961), Further Definitions—Benny Carter (1961), Bud Shank and the Sax Section (1966), Dave Pell’s Prez Conference (1978), Supersax (1972-1988), Marlene VerPlanck Meets Saxomania (1993), Harry Allen’s The Candy Men (2016).
Now let’s add one more: Jay Cameron’s International Sax Band, which was recorded in Paris on New Year’s Day of 1955. Born in New York in 1928, Cameron began his career in Los Angeles with the Ike Carpenter band until 1947 (leaving just before Bill Holman joined briefly in 1948). For reasons that I’ve been unable to figure out, Cameron moved to Europe around 1950 and remained there until 1956. While in Paris, he recorded with trumpeter and vocalist Bill Coleman in 1951 and with a sextet led by drummer Roy Haynes in 1954. Then in January 1955, he led a superb saxophone band backed by a rhythm section.
The personnel on the six sides for the French Vogue label included Bobby Jaspar, Barney Wilen and Jean-Louis Chautemps (ts); Jay Cameron (bar); Henri Renaud (p); Benoit Quersin (b); and Andre Baptiste “Mac Kac” Reilles (d). It’s unclear who wrote the arrangements, but they are exceptional. Also exceptional are Cameron’s solos on the baritone sax. His sense of swing and bop feel are terrific, especially in the middle register of his instrument. The tracks they recorded are Blue Note, Rosy, Give Me the Simple Life, Brother J.C., Static Test and Wooden Sword Street.
Cameron returned to the States in 1956 and toured with Woody Herman and then appeared as a sideman on a series of terrfic albums: Tony Ortega’s Jazz for Young Moderns (1956), Andre Hodeir’s American Jazzmen Play Hodeir’s Essais (1957), Larry Sonn and His Orchestra (1957), Hal McKusick’s Cross-Section Saxes (1958), Maynard Ferguson’s A Message From Newport (1958) and Slide Hampton’s Horn of Plenty (1959). Cameron remained with Hampton through the early 1960s and then recorded with Paul Winter.
Jay Cameron died in 2001.
JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Jay Cameron’s International Sax Band here.
JazzWax clips: Here’s Give Me the Simple Life…
Here’s Static Test…
Here’s Jay Cameron on TV’s Jazz Casual in March 1963 with Paul Winter. The musicians are Richard Whitsell (tp), Paul Winter (as), Jay Cameron (bar), Warren Bernhardt (p), Arthur Harper, Jr. (b) and Ben Riley (d)…
A special thanks to David Langner and Doug Paterson.