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Jazz Tasting Menu, Plate #2: Baritone Saxophone w/Piano Reduction Sauce

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When we last met (for those of you keeping track, the exact date was February 6, 2008), I was making an honest attempt to dig myself out from underneath a rapidly growing pile of review material. The size of the pile was mostly my fault, because it took me a number of years to realize that you just can't write about everything. So while I waited for inspiration to strike with regard to the latest wacky big band disc that had just shown up in the mailbox, five or ten more recordings would arrive to keep it company. It didn't take long for my desk to be covered with CDs just waiting to be written about.

So I got this idea to give coverage to some of the artists whose material I just couldn't figure out what to do with. That darned idea light bulb is so fickle! I've got discs that I totally love and yet sometimes the words just won't come. The Jazz Tasting Menu will attempt to rectify this situation. I'm planning on it being at least a weekly affair, though it may come out more often if inspiration strikes.

Plate #2 features the low end sonics of the baritone saxophone and some pretty tasty interplay.

Charles Evans, Neil ShahLive at Saint Stephens

Baritone sax (Evans) and piano recorded live at a church. The room gave just the right amount of natural reverb, which is a great thing because too much echo can muddy all of those wonderful details my ears parts expect from the bari sax: clacking valves, breathy passages. The improvisations range from simple call & response motifs — the opening "Junie" suite has Shah holding down an ostinato over which Evans places a theme that he proceeds to slowly take apart. During "On Tone Yet," the duo hands ideas back & forth for over 16 minutes with the tone morphing from a romantic hush to foreboding dissonance. I particularly loved the tension brought on by the angularity employed during "Mothers and Others." Sorta Braxton-esque, sorta not. There was a lot of deep listening going on at this show, by both fans and performers.


Course #2 brings alto and tenor sax into the mix. Dave Rempis' co-conspirator on drums, Frank Rosaly, lays down some solid grooves and textures. Nothing here is quite as chaotic as say, Interstellar Space, but the music isn't exactly subdued either. Rempis displays some impressive extended technique on tunes like "How to Cross When Bridges Are Out," with Rosaly providing both implied rhythmic structure as well as melodic counterpoint to the horn. Another feast for the ears (and possible room-clearer) is "Still Will," with both men getting the most out of their instruments. Of course, I love the charging baritone and the closing track "In Plain Sight" does not disappoint. The horn's low and higher registers are brought out as some serious swing develops.

Dave KingIndelicate

OK, big change of direction here. No baritone sax. In fact, no saxes at all. Just a piano and drum 'duo,' all played by Dave King. Yes, the drummer for The Bad Plus not only has piano skills as well but also a big piles of ideas to play with. Grooves would of course be expected, as well as dissonance and stumbling rhythms ("Arts High Boogie," "Highly Varnished Academic Realism"). There are moments of tenderness too, particularly on the piano-only "I See You, You See Me." My vote for the tracks with the mostest fun are "Herman Ze German Cassette Redux," which is full of skittery piano lines and "Bees," a terrific herky-jerky load of off-kilterisms that you'd want to tap your toe to…if you could find the actual beat.

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About Mark Saleski

  • Welcome back. See you in 2012 unless the Mayans are right