The Riveting Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford

In a week that the jazz world celebrated the centennial of the mighty tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon and was saddened by the loss of jazz saxophonist giant Wayne Shorter, Ricky Ford made a timely visit to our jazz community. One of the central instruments and sounds of jazz was put on historic display by Ford and his quartet at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center. With obvious spiritual influence, the music was riveting and captivating.

At the age of 68, Ricky Ford comes from the line of master tenor saxophonists who found refuge in Europe to craft their sound and continue making hard-driving jazz. Every note played by Ford resonated with this history in mind. From the mention of Coleman Hawkins to fantastic penned originals on his latest album, The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene. There were several Sonny Rollins-like moments where the piano went silent and Ford powered through with chord-less intensity. A marvel sight it was.

Ricky Ford Album

Not every moment was intense. As in the quartet’s performance of the Coleman Hawkins ballad Angel Face. Ford’s tone was masterful. Another standout was Paris Fringe. A tune filled with African rhythms and most likely influenced by his time in the French Capital. Drummer Thurman Baker shined on this number as he did on Ricky’s Bossa. Ford’s music, for drummers in particular, has variate cadence and timing and Baker was outstanding in this regard.

One of the more fascinating tunes of the evening was Kenny Graham’s Mabulala. Although no longer in his 30s or 40s, Ford still showed the power of muscular tenor saxophonists who seem breathless. Carrying extended notes that float over the entire room. This perhaps little-known tune edified the night perfectly.

Tony Marino on upright bass and John Kordalewski on piano provided solo voyages that were sublime. Artful voyages into their world of interpretation and improvising.

The night ended with a hush-tone ode to Wayne Shorter. Ford transitioned to the familiar melody of Wayne Shorter’s Footprints in a meditative style. Creating a moment and space to remember a fallen giant of jazz on a most memorable night of jazz in Buffalo.

(Many thanks to Hallwalls Contemporary Arts and the .9 Mile Collaborative for making this evening happen!)

Enjoy more fabulous gallery photos from JazzBuffalo contributor and photographer, Jack Zuff!

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