Saxophonist Richard Oppenheim's Greenhorn in a Red State
is a delightful album with a tight, simmering groove and filled with musically unique twist and turns. Inspired by his relocation to San Antonio from New York and the relative culture shock this entailed the seven originals are witty, nostalgic and restless.
The front line of Oppenheim's alto and his wife flautist Katharine (Katchie) Cartwright
's piccolo gives the melodies a singular agility and elasticity. Cartwright's breezy resonant tone glides over Oppenheim's greasy vibrating sound as the two woodwinds perform a provocative sensual dance on the funk infused "Mean Old Bastrop." Pianist Mark Lomanno
leads the backing quartet in a swaggering groove that ends in drummer Kevin Hess
' fiery and thrilling unfettered polyrhythms.
Oppenheim utilizes percussionist Georgie Padilla
's deft alacrity to add an infectious Latin flavor to such tunes as "Texas Three-Lane Sideslip." Padilla's primal and enthusiastic beats drive the passionate, gritty group play. Oppenheim's own blistering, blues-drenched improvisation arises out of this bubbling sonic cauldron.
Oppenheim demonstrates his lyrical side on perhaps the most inventive composition of the record "Debutante At the Coronation of the Queen of the Order of the Alamo." The haunting ballad features his thick saxophone phrases lilting poetically as his daughter bassist Eleonore Oppenheim
accompanies him in sparse, hypnotic reverberations. It is, however, her own melancholic con arco song, that Lomanno's chimes punctuate that makes the piece so intriguing. Classically trained, the younger Oppenheim brings a sedate yet sublime virtuosity to her own solo.
She is also quite adept at anchoring her band mates' often dramatics, multifaceted conversations as on the soulful, cooking "Sunken Kitchens of Terrell Hills." The track also features Cartwright's breathtakingly limber spontaneous flight.
A cleverly innovative and intimate musical memoir Greenhorn in a Red State
may not break new ground. It is, however, highly engaging and immensely enjoyable thanks to the superlative artistry of the individual sextet members and Oppenheim's writing skills.
Personnel: Richard Oppenheim : alto saxophone; Katchie Cartwright: piccolo flute; Mark Lomanno: piano;
Eleonore Oppenheim: bass; Kevin Hess: drums; Georgie Padilla: percussion.