Web Exclusive! Review of the Day ? Boots Randolph: A Whole New Ballgame

Boots Randolph
A Whole New Ballgame
Zoho (ZM 200706)
Grade: ****

It seems fitting that the great tenor saxman Boots Randolph?s final studio album should include a sly and playful reworking of the old chestnut ?Take Me Out to the Ballgame.?

Randolph made his first big splash in 1963 with an equally playful track, ?Yakety Sax.? The fun and frenetic tune has since become instantly recognizable as the theme to British comedian Benny Hill?s television show.

When Randolph passed earlier this year, he left behind an amazing body of work. His unmatched versatility and unique style landed him on recordings with Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, Al Hirt, Chet Atkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Dr. Feelgood, Clarence ?Frogman? Henry, and even polka king Jimmy Sturr.

On his own albums, Randolph has shown a high degree of ingenuity and inventiveness, not to mention an ability to capture the heart of any composition.

These traits are all over A Whole New Ballgame. The aforementioned ?Take Me Out to the Ballgame? is transformed from the squarest of square tunes to a toe-tappin? trapezoid, thanks to Randolph?s swingin? sax and a fine arrangement by Tom Cherry. Phil Wilson?s ?Basically Blues? is a chance for Randolph to lay down some smooth, driving lines, before he breaks out into a down n? dirty wail. On Mack David, Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer?s ?Candy,? Randolph lingers gloriously on every romantic note.

The members of Randolph?s combo also deliver some sparkling moments. ?I?ll Walk Alone? features marvelous piano work by Steve Willets. Bassist Tim Smith and drummer Ray Von Rotz kick it out on ?Billy?s Bounce,? while guitarist Roddy Smith is sweet and sentimental on ?I?ll Be Seeing You.?

The cherry in this set, however, has got to be the final track, a solo sax rendition of ?Nature Boy.? In a mere one minute and eleven seconds, Randolph draws out every ounce of melancholy truth from the tune, leaving the listener breathless. Simply astounding.

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