As much as a recent Ottawa, Canada performance
was an intimate opportunity for local fans to see John Abercrombie
, it was equally noteworthy for the two brothers who brought the veteran guitarist and bassist John Menegon
, both from Upstate New York, for a short tour of Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal. Saxophonist Chet Doxas and drummer Jim Doxas are no strangers to Ottawaespecially Jim, a regular at local bassist John Geggie
's annual Geggie Concert Series
. Chetwho has recorded and/or toured with artists including Dave Douglas
, Jason Moran
, David Binney
and Oliver Jones
the latter, Jim's regular gigreleased his debut as a leader, Sidewalk Etiquette
(Justin Time), in 2006; four years later, Big Sky
expands on its predecessor's many strengths, bringing back the same quartet, with the exception of guitarist Ben Charest, who replaces pianist John Roney
Switching to a guitar-based group alters the overall complexion of a group which also features Jim, and longtime friend/musical cohort, bassist Zack Lober. But beyond the obvious, it creates a sense of air
that allows the dark, brooding, title trackparadoxically introspective, given its nameto breathe in a different way than it had it featured a piano's denser voicings. Charestbest known, perhaps, for his Grammy
- and Academy
-nominated soundtrack to The Triplets of Belleville
(2003), on which Chet can also be heardjoins a warm, ambiguous harmonic approach with the kind of contemporary melodism heard from guitarists like Kurt Rosenwinkel
, favoring a rich, thick tone that fills up a lot of space without ever weighing it down.
As before, Chet is the primary writer, with the exception of Lober's angularly swinging "Blue 23," and an a capella
saxophone reading of clarinetist Benny Goodman
's well-known theme song, "Goodbye," whichunderstated though it may bedemonstrates unfailing respect for composer/arranger Gordon Jenkins
' memorable melody while, at the same time, pushing it into the 21st Century with a broader purview. The rest of Big Sky
's eight tunes are Chet's, and demonstrate the same blend of head and heart as Sidewalk Etiquette
. As much informed by 20th Century classical composers like Charles Ives
and Gustav Mahler as he is jazz underdogs like Jimmy Giuffre
, Doxas combines knotty structures with plenty of room to move, but Big Sky
shifts towards greater lyricism, despite quirky arrangements like the closing "Blumen," with its seemingly endless series of stops and starts.
Continuing to grow as a player, Chet's tone is refreshingly not
from the Chris Potter
schoolno disrespect intended, but the American saxophonist's influence has simply become far too pervasive. Jim continues to build on his remarkable abilities to twist and turn a pulse without ever losing it, quickly respond to the subtlest motif, and play with an often thrilling blend of restraint and abandon. A significant step forwardnot just for leader Chet Doxas, but for everyone in the groupBig Sky
shines a light on a fine group of players from a city that has one of the most diverse and, on the strength of albums like this, underappreciated scenes in North America, outside of New York.
Personnel: Chet Doxas: tenor saxophone; Ben Charest: guitar; Zack Lober: bass; Jim Doxas: drums.