the tenor sax of herschel evans

Topics: Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Lester Young Pages: 33 (4246 words) Published: January 17, 2014




Solographer: Jan Evensmo
Last update: Aug. 28, 2012


Born: Temple, Texas, May 1, 1910
Died: New York, Feb. 9, 1939

Herschel Evans was one of the all-time greats of tenor saxophone, one of the strongest assets of the Count Basie. After hearing his introduction of “Georgianna” I was hopelessly addicted to his charismatic playing. Even today my hair raises when I hear his strong and personal sound, and I will go so far as to say that of all jazz musicians in history, one marginal solo discovery has the greatest value! His solography was printed as part of Vol. 2 in my Jazz Solography Series.

Did early work in "T.N.T." (Trent's Number Two) Band in Texas (c. 1926), then worked in "The St. Louis Merrymakers" (a Texas band). Brief spells with Edgar Battle, Terrence Holder and with Sammy Holmes in Texas before joining Troy Floyd's Band in Texas (1929). Left Troy Floyd in 1931, stints with Grant Moore's Band, then worked with Benny Moten (Feb. 1933-1935), but no recording sessions. He appears again in 1935 with Richard M. Jones, and became one of the all-time greats of tenorsax with Count Basie 1936-1939. Left Troy Floyd in 1931, stints with Grant Moore's Band, then worked with Benny Moten (February 1933-35), worked in Kansas City with Hot Lips Page's Band, moved on to Chicago, played briefly in Dave Peyton's Band (autumn 1935). Then settled in Los Angeles. With Charlie Echols' Band in Los Angeles, also worked with Lionel Hampton's Band at the Paradise Cafe and with Buck Clayton's Band in the "Brownskin Revue". Joined Count Basie (with Buck Clayton) in autumn 1936 and remained with Basie until fatal illness (ref. John Chilton).

It is well known that the Bill Savory collection contains some magnificent soloing by Herschel Evans. However, no detailed information can be given at this time.


Chicago, Sept. 13, 1935
Richard M. Jones (arr, dir), Louis Metcalf, Jimmy McLeary (tp), Albert Wynn (tb), Jimmy Hutchinson, Artie Starks (cl, as), Herschel Evans (ts), Dave Peyton (p-90324), Gideon Honore (p-90323), Hurley Ramey (g), Oliver Bibb (b), Roy Slaughter (dm), George D. Washington (vo-90323).

Two titles were recorded for Decca, one has HE:

Baby O' Mine

Soli 2 and 8 bars. (M)

This encounter with Herschel Evans, which for the author took place after listening to his later works, is rather surprising. He sounds different than on the Basie records, more primitive and staccato in his phrasing, and he is not easily recognizable. However, his soli are characterized by the usual eagerness and forceful attack, is swinging violently, and has no similarity to the products of any of his contemporaries. This "Baby ..." definitely has its value both from a historical point of view and for its jazz content.

NYC. Jan. 21, 1937
Buck Clayton, Joe Keyes, Carl Smith (tp), George Hunt, Dan Minor (tb), Caughey Roberts (as), Jack Washington (as, bar), Herschel Evans, Lester Young (cl, ts), Count Basie (p), Claude Williams (vln, g), Walter Page (b), Jo Jones (dm), James Rushing (vo).

Four titles were recorded for Decca, one has HE:

Swingin' At The Daisy Chain

Solo 8 bars. (FM)

Herschal Evans' first recorded solo with Count Basie is quite typical of his production. The time span between his first and last record is only two years, and there is no notable stylistic development. He already had found his own personal manner of expression which was characterized by a unique sound, somewhat dry, but big, powerful and emotional. His style is kind of edgy and winded. However, these effects sound highly intentional. Evans brings something new into the realm of tenor saxophone, and the solo is original in the best sense of the word. COUNT BASIE AND HIS ORCHESTRA

Personnel probably as Jan. 21, 1937.
Broadcasts from The Chatterbox, Hotel...
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