If a solo album by a saxophonist sounds a little dry and rigorous ... wait! Julian Arguelles' Inner Voices
dodges any such preconceptions, delivering instead a melodic, foot-tapping hour of gentle, feel-good music. An album it closely resembles isn't in fact a solo saxophone album at all, but fellow British reed player Finn Peters' mellifluous Butterflies
(Accidental, 2008), an engaging confection of strong tunes played by close-harmonized flutes and saxophones over supple motor rhythms, in which the jazz tradition is tempered by folkish, especially African, influences.
Arguelles achieves the same full-bodied, layered arrangements as Peters did with a six-piece band through extensive use of overdubbing and loops, and creates bass and drum patterns by tapping, banging, and scraping the bodies of his instruments. And he plays a lot of instrumentssoprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, contra bass saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, piccolo, flute, alto flute, mouth harp, prepared piano, and voice. The tonal range is considerable, and Arguelles makes the most of it.
Most of the tracks on Inner Voices are little vignettes lasting three minute or less, in the main pretty and tender. The hymn-like "You See My Dear," written for Cathie Rae, and "From One JC To Another," written for Arguelles' father, are both particularly touching. The two-part "Study In 12 Tone" isn't concerned with Arnold Schoenberg's 12 tone scales but with the tonal possibilities offered by Arguelles' instrumental choir.
There is little time to develop most of these tunes, and Inner Voices relies for its effect on reiteration rather than evolution. This is true even on the longer tracks. "Ghana," which lasts 5:50 minutes, and "Disatease," which lasts 4:48, are the two tracks in which Arguelles most directly references his enthusiasm for African music (which itself, of course, values reiteration). "Ghana" plays with that country's cross-rhythms tradition, recreated by layered flutes, saxophones, and clarinets. "Disatease" is more or less straight-ahead South African township jazz, in which only that style's signature saxophone, the alto, is missing. Township jazz, this time in more mutated guise, is heard again on "Tin Tin."
Arguelles gives the feeling that he sees a lot of love and beauty in the world and reflects that in his music. Inner Voices was composed and recorded in Germany in 2007, when Arguelles was on assignment with Radio Bigband Frankfurt, during, he writes in the liner notes, "late nights fuelled by loneliness." Warm and lyrical throughout, Inner Voices is a little treasure.
Personnel: Julian Arguelles: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, contra bass saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, piccolo, flute, alto flute, mouth harp, saxophone percussion, prepared piano, voice.