Vintage instruments often get a bad rap. But in the hands of professionals they still sing.
Shot on November 22, 2009 at Boutique De Son in Montreal, “A Unique Identity” is the second in a suite of short films about jazz. Featuring Al McLean on saxophone, Kevin Dean on trumpet, Morgan Moore on bass and Hans Verhoeven on drums.
The film looks at the deep commitment jazz musicians make to their music, and how their sound and musical process affects their identity as artists and people. The tune is Mercer Ellington’s ‘Things ‘Aint What They Used To Be’, and Dean and McLean trade heartfelt, bluesy solos. Both musicians are playing vintage instruments that are not their usual horns; Dean an ornate 1912 Harry B. Jay Columbia trumpet, and McLean a quirky 1920’s Buescher C Melody sax.
“People keep asking me where I’m going to play my C Melody,” McLean laughs. “I just say ‘at a gig!'” McLean defies the common notion that the C Melody is an obsolete instrument, exacting a dirty, soulful sound from the horn. “It’s basically an extruded alto sax, most people make the mistake of using a tenor mouthpiece, it just needs a large alto mouthpiece and it sounds great.”
The film’s director Randy Cole asked McLean and Dean to play a variety of vintage horns during this session, which took the musicians slightly out of their comfort zone, resulting in an unpredictable and fresh performance.
Cole has a longstanding fascination with Jazz, both as a language, and as a living contemporary art form, albeit changed from the heady days of its inception. “Jazz musicians are storytellers principally,” Cole says, “the richness of communication between themselves, and with an astute audience is remarkable. A true unspoken language.”
Musicians were recorded by prolific Montreal recording engineer and impresario George Doxas, horn mics used were an RCA 77D ribbon, and Neumann U67 tube microphone.