So deep is the connection between players on Jake Fryer and Bud Shank’s In Good Company that it’s sometimes hard to tell where one starts and when the other begins. As profound an expression of joy and companionship this recording is, it can’t help but be touched by sadness.
Shank, that ball of fire from Dayton, passed away the day after recording was finished on this record. He was known for his work on the alto saxophone and flute, the latter of which became his secondary instrument over the years. Bud made a big splash on Ravi Shankar’s 1962 recording Improvisations with his use of the flute to capture tinges of Indian tradition.
With In Good Company, Shank is playing with an admirer and a powerful presence in his own right. Fryer played lead alto saxophone with the Four Tops and has performed at a number of festivals the world over. Indian influences also touch his work, as his London BeBop Collective headlined the Bandra and Utsav Jazz Festivals.
In Good Company was recorded with very little rehearsal and features all first takes, making it a staggering accomplishment in many ways. The sharpness with which the arrangements are attacked is notable, as is the precision with which Shank and Fryer collide and trade slick shots using their weapons.
Mike Wofford (piano), Bob Magnusson (bass) and Joe La Barbera (drums) create one hell of a rhythm section.
The record opens with “Caravan” and right away Shank and Fryer are blasting. Magnusson sets the pace and La Barbera and Wofford dance in easily, but when Shank spits fire it’s all kinds of magic. Fryer follows up and paints a picture with the outline left by Shank.
These sorts of connections dot the landscape of In Good Company, colouring the piano flourishes of “Bopping with Bud” with spicy accents and working through the Lerner and Lowe classic “Almost Like Being in Love” with smoky ease.
Fryer’s originals, of which there are six, paint a picture of a composer in control. His brisk “Tip Top and Tickety Boo” prances with La Barbera’s brisk sticks and a sharp bit of trading between Shank and Fryer. And the title track proves especially apt thanks to the space allowed for the players to carry out this grand meeting of the minds.
In Good Company is a record kissed by gentle sorrow, but these glorious songs are anything but depressing. Shank and Fryer exchange ideas quickly and compellingly, joining with the solid support of the rhythm players to create a set of dazzling memories to last a lifetime.