So who was the Mystery Trumpeter? Why it was Paul Serrano, of course – the tune is called “Blues Holiday” and it comes from the 1960 Cannonball Adderley-produced Riverside album “Blues Holiday.” Come on, you’ve heard of Paul Serrano before, right? Right? OK who the hell has heard of Paul Serrano? Well there sure isn’t a lot of info on the web about Paul Serrano. His discography as a player is seriously slim. From what I can tell though, Serrano was a hard bop-oriented player active on the Chicago scene in the late-50’s/early 60’s. But as a player, that’s all I can find. It appears as if he quit active playing and moved into the role of studio engineer, a job at which he seems to have been quite successful.
So why would I pick this player to highlight? Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, I like his playing. He has a great trumpet sound. Bright, but not too much so. There’s fire in that sound too, especially when he fires up above the staff. And Serrano can really play. He navigates the changes nicely – nothing too crazy, but real solid in a straight ahead context. And on a blues like this track he really sounds like he could have been one of history’s more well-known players. Honestly, after listening to this record a few times, I can’t really figure out why he didn’t record more. I could make some guesses but that would just be total conjecture. Another reason I picked Serrano is because of the alto player on this date – the great, but severely-unheralded Bunky Green. This 1960 date “Blues Holiday” is one of Bunky’s first. He plays with some serious fire and chops on this album. He can really burn, just eating up the changes, especially on fast tunes. His sound clearly owes a lot to Jackie McLean at this point, but that’s cool. He sounds great and there’s more than a hint that he’s a special player, someone about to goe on to be one of the most individual – and progressive – voices on the alto. So yeah, let’s use this track to also highlight and bring some attention to Bunky. BTW – monster alto man Rudresh Mahanthappa (who is a huge Bunky fan and a Bunky collaborator) and I discussed “Blues Holiday” and Rudresh told me that Serrano is still alive and well in Chicago. It sure would be cool to hear a reunion record. But in case it doesn’t happen we still have this one record to hear Serrano. This brings me to my third reason for picking this record: who the hell is Paul Serrano? Paul Serrano is like so many other figures in this music. Every town had (and still has) a Paul Serrano or several Paul Serranos. Men and women who can really play this music on the level of the greats but for one reason or another never got their due, never got the big recording contracts, or the top bookings, or the press coverage. These players are everywhere. It’s part of the tradition. I’m sure it always has been.