Baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber cut his teeth in Marshall Brown’s Newport Youth Band in 1959. The band was noteworthy for breaking in gifted players who went on to sizable jazz careers, including bassist Eddie Gomez and pianist Mike Abene. The band also was a feeder for Maynard Ferguson’s big band of the early 1960s. Among those who recorded on Ferguson’s The New Sound of Maynard Ferguson (1963) and Come Blow Your Horn (1964) were Ronnie, Abene, Nat Pavone and others. [Photo above of Ronnie Cuber courtesy of French Sound Records]
These days, Ronnie does a lot of touring in Europe, where jazz still thrives in clubs and concert halls. In November 2017, Ronnie was at Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, backed by Kjeld Lauritsen on organ, Krister Jonsson on guitar and Andreas Svendsen on drums. The run was recorded by Denmark’s Storyville Records and recently released as Ronnie Cuber Live at Montmartre. The album opens with Tee’s Bag, Ronnie’s tribute to pianist-arranger and studio musician Richard Tee. Toots Thielemans’ Bluesette waltz follows with a bouncing solo by Ronnie.
Next up are three songs made famous by Charlie Parker. Ronnie takes Cherokee at its typical burning-fuse tempo. Then comes Just Friends with highly charged solos by swinging guitarist Jonsson and organist Lauritsen before Ronnie cruises in with his grunting baritone. Au Privave is a straight-up reading of the jazz standard beginning with Ronnie, who tears neatly through a bop solo. Jonsson and Lauritsen again light up the song with solos reminiscent of ’60s Prestige recordings.
Perhaps my favorite track on the album is Horace Silver’s Silver’s Serenade, a lyrical song with a walking tempo that offers up superb solo work by Ronnie. Jazz Girls is a blues written by Lauritsen that gives him a chance to cook and groove. The last track is the cool and mannered Four, a swinger credited to Miles Davis. All four musicians are on fire on the closer.
JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Ronnie Cuber Live at Montmartre (Storyville) here.
JazzWax clip: Here’s Four…