Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blue Serge Chaloff

The baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff was born in Boston on November 24th 1923 to two classical pianists. His father was the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s pianist and his mother was a famous piano teacher at the Boston conservatory whose students include such musicians as Keith Jarrett and Dick Twardzik. Serge himself learned to play the piano first then the clarinet in his teens but switched to the baritone sax as an adult. His two major influences were Harry Carney and Charlie Parker. The former on his choice of instrument and the latter on his choice of genre: he was the first bop baritonist. He started his professional career in the big bands of the era first with Boyd Raeburn followed by Georgie Auld and Jimmy Dorsey. In 1946 he joined Woody Herman’s orchestra and became famous as one of the “Four Brothers” playing on Jimmy Giuffre’s immortal composition with Stan Getz Zoot Sims, and Herbie Stewart. Heroin addiction and his apparent disrespect for his boss caused him to leave the herd shortly after and join Count Basie’s band for a while. In 1947 he made his recording debut for Savoy backed by a group of Basie alumni. By 1949, however, he was heavily addicted to heroin and his drug-induced behavior had alienated most of his colleagues in the jazz community. He moved to New York and played with Bud Powell for a while. He returned to Boston in 1952 and recorded with Dick Twardzik a session that remains unreleased. He also started appearing on TV and leading the house band at a local club. He also started working on quitting his heroin habit, which succeeded in doing by 1954. He recorded two more sessions in Boston Fable for Mable and Boston Blow-Up ! before relocating to Los Angeles in 1956. There he recorded his masterpiece Blue Serge but sadly around that time he was diagnosed with cancer of the spine which led to his demise on July 16th 1957 at the tragically young age of 33.

Source :

Serge Chaloff
Blue Serge 


1 A Handful of Stars (Lawrence, Shapiro)  5:33
2 The Goof and I (Cohn)  4:45
3 Thanks for the Memory (Rainger, Robin)  3:46
4 All the Things You Are (Hammerstein, Kern)  5:24
5 I've Got the World on a String (Arlen, Koehler)  6:44
6 Susie's Blues (Chaloff)  5:08
7 Stairway to the Stars (Malneck, Parish, Signorelli)  4:50
8 How About You ? [*] (Freed, Heusen, Lane)  5:23


Serge Chaloff - bs
Sonny Clark - p
Leroy Vinnegar - b
Philly Joe Jones - dr

Recorded at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles on March 14 [# 1-3, 5 & 6] and March 16 [# 4, 7 & 8], 1956
After completing work on Boston Blow-Up !, a loose but impassioned Stan Kenton-produced date for Capitol, Chaloff relocated to Los Angeles, where in 1956 he assembled pianist Sonny Clark, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Philly Joe Jones to record his masterpiece Blue Serge, a gripping, evocative set that ranks among the finest jazz recordings of its era. But by the time of its release Chaloff was confined to a wheelchair, partially paralyzed as the result of a spinal tumor. The cancer spread, and he died July 16, 1957, at the age of just 33.
Jason Ankeny



jpo said...

thanks! aleways wondered about this but couldnever afford to buy everything i "wondered" about ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Melanchthon

Terry said...

I love the baritone sax but had always overlooked Chaloff in favour of Mulligan, Gullin, Ross etc from that era. Thanks for bringing him to my attention.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great classic which i've never heard (other than a few cuts from an old scratchy vinyl played on WKCR FM!). Wonderful music and great mono sound quality, and cool to hear Philly Joe in his prime as well!

Anonymous said...

My seriously worn copy of this superb recording is framed and mounted on my wall, along with a mint copy of Boston Blow Up! Thanks for posting this classic by a master big horn blaster.

Anonymous said...

Link is out

Pernath said...

Thanks Mel!!!

CrunchyFrog said...

I already have this but thanks for posting it again anyway Mel... I love this guy and think he deserves more attention! Post more Serge... maybe Boston Blow-Up? Cheers! This blog is unmatched.

duck said...

Thanks again for another update, Chaloff was a master baritone player, just so sad to be hooked and die young.

Melanchthon said...

Gaetano Bevilacqua said...


deGallo said...

Thank you.

madbebopper said...

May I ask what is the password for the Serge Chaloff?

Paul Gillis said...

I have Boston Blow Up! and I'd really like to hear this album. I'm a big fan of the bari sax. Could you please repost?

I love your blog. I've found so much great stuff and learned about many artists (like Chaloff) who were new to me. Thanks so much!