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Sabertooth: Dr. Midnight (2008)

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Sabertooth: Dr. Midnight How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

New York City has The Village Vanguard, The Blue Note and Birdland and can boast being home to scores of famous jazz musicians, but America's Second City, Chicago also has a storied history that includes the famous Green Mill Cocktail Lounge.

Chicago also includes, among its children, some of the most distinctive jazz talent performing, including Patricia Barber, Kurt Elling, Anthony Braxton, Ari Brown, Ted Sirota, and Von Freeman. All have made their way to the Green Mill.

Sabertooth, a two-saxophone/organ quartet based in the Windy City, adds their name to the attractions list of the lounge. Dr. Midnight was recorded in performance June 23, 2007. Saxophonists Cameron Pfiffner and Pat Mallinger team up to form a tenor tandem along the lines of Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw Davis or Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons.

Sabertooth plays a wicked form of blues that could have only incubated in Chicago, where electricity came to the blues and improvisation came to jazz. Pete Benson pushes his B3 to the limit propelling this two saxophonists and drummer Ted Sirota into hyperspace with the most electrifying, organic, and low-fidelity music a weary rap victim could ever hope for.

It is the blues that starts this disc, one written by Mallinger for his partner Pfiffner. The band explores the twelve bars thoroughly, shifting through crescendo after crescendo, milking all of the dynamics offered by such a fruitful musical loam. Sirota proves the master of the bombastic rim shot, dropping missile after missile into the performance fire zone.

"It's Surely Gonna Flop If It Ain't Got That Bop is exactly what the title implies, pure bebop. Composer Mallinger assembles a head of such complexity to make even Charlie Parker break a sweat. Pfiffner's "Dr. Midnight is beautifully strange. The piece demonstrates the band's sense of humor and sounds oddly like a Hebraic funeral march.

Track Listing: Blues for C Piff; Its Surely Gonna Flop If It Aint Got That Bop; Mary Anne; Tetemeterri; Dr. Midnight; Odd Couple; China Cat Sunflower.

Personnel: Cameron Pfiffner: tenor and soprano saxophone, flute, piccolo; Pat Mallinger: tenor and alto saxophones, Native American flute; Pete Benson: Hammond B3; Ted Sirota: drums.

Record Label: Delmark Records

Style: Funk/Groove


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