Sahib Shihab - And All Those Cats (2LP)

Sahib Shihab - And All Those Cats (2LP)

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Schema Rearward - RW102LP

Sahib Shihab was, in many ways, the Thelonious Monk of the baritone saxophone. Like Monk, he was an uncompromising individualist with an idiosyncratic, often quirky, approach to improvisation. And, in fact, Shihab and Monk had a strong mutual affinity. They worked together in the late forties and early fifties and became good friends. Shihab admired Monk for his oblique approach to jazz and his resolute nonconformity and he shared much of Monk's musical philosophy.

He joined Luther Henderson's band before he was 16 but left soon afterward to enroll for a year at Boston Conservatory. He then had a two-year spell with Fletcher Henderson and later worked with Roy Eldridge. It was after he heard Charlie Parker that Shihab's music became strongly bop orientated.

He did his first record date with Thelonious Monk in November 1947 and later he worked with Art Blakey, Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Pettiford, John Coltrane, and Illinois Jacquet. It was in 1951 that he added the baritone saxophone to his range of instruments.

When the opportunity came, in 1959, to join the band of Quincy Jones for a tour of Europe with the musical Free And Easy, Shihab accepted it with alacrity because he had become disillusioned with the politics and racism of the United States. And when the tour ended, Shihab decided to remain in Europe, settling in Copenhagen, where he taught at the Polytechnic High School and also composed music for the cinema, television, and the theatre.

Shihab joined the Clarke-Boland Big Band in 1961 and remained a regular member of the ensemble until it broke up in April 1972. He returned to the United States for a three-year spell in 1973, basing himself in Los Angeles, then moved back to Europe for a further period. In 1986 he went back once again to America. He died in Tennessee on October 24, 1989.

The small group dates here were recorded between 1964 and 1970 and showcase the delightfully eccentric, unorthodox improvisational style of Shihab on baritone saxophone and flute.