Album reviews

Ricky Ford – ‘The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene’

Ricky Ford The Wailing Sounds of Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene

(Whaling City Sound. Album Review by Adam Sieff)

Not yet a subscriber of our Wednesday Breakfast Headlines?
Join the mailing list for a weekly roundup of Jazz News.


The great tenor saxophonist Ricky Ford (b.1954) as made a hugely enjoyable album that reflects back on his influences and musical forebears while always sounding right in the moment. It was recorded for Neal Weiss’ Whaling City Sound label based in New Bedford, Mass, not so far from Ford’s birthplace of Boston. New Bedford is also the coastal town where Paul Gonsalves grew up, which explains the ‘Paul’s Scene’ of the album’s title. And to complete the picture, Ford took Gonsalves’ chair in the Duke Ellington Orchestra under Mercer Ellington from 1974-76.

This album was recorded at Samurai Hotel recording studio in New York on 25 June 2021 by David Stoller with an outstanding lineup of the 68 year old Ford’s contemporaries: pianist Mark Soskin, bassist Jerome Harris (playing a Ribbecke Bobby Vega Halfling archtop acoustic bass guitar) and drummer Barry Altschul. Ford is still just as powerful a force as he was with Charles Mingus (and later with Mingus Dynasty) or as a leader on his Muse and Candid era albums.

It’s a joy to hear him in full flight on The Wonder which takes a Schubert theme (“Wandrers Nachtlied I”, D.224) into deep spiritual territory. It’s a fantastic band performance, with Soskin’s powerful chords over turbulent rolling rhythms before he also takes a wonderful solo. It’s the longest track at just under seven minutes and like the rest of the album’s repertoire never outstays its welcome.

There’s a nod to Stan Getz on Ricky’s Bossa which contains plenty of fire beneath its cool exterior, and the Turkish influence in the rousing Fer recalls Ford’s time as a Professor at Istanbul Bilgi University. The jaunty Paris Fringe celebrates both Abdullah Ibrahim with whom he played in the 80s (think the title Capetown Fringe) and his three decades of living in France where he founded the Toucy Jazz Festival in 2009. He pays homage to Coleman Hawkins with versions of The Essence Of You and Angel Face (co-written by Hawkins with Hank Jones) and to Gonsalves himself with Paul’s Scene – a powerhouse performance with Ford quoting from a number of classic jazz performances.

The high energy level in the studio is maintained throughout the album, Soskin and Altschul are vastly experienced leaders in their own right and the level of support all four musicians offer each other is inspirational. Apart from the painful pun in the title everything else about this album is great, there isn’t a dull moment or a second wasted. Go listen!

LINKS: Whaling City Sound website

Purchase link

Categories: Album reviews

Leave a Reply