Life evolves. Saxophonist Tim Eyermann was influenced by Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, and Eric Dolphy. His latest album reflects those early and integral passions clearly; yet it also reflects several influential saxophonists who’ve dominated the recording industry over the past twenty years. Even Kenny G. When improvisation and innovation take a back seat to emotional melodies, drum set backbeats, and synths that attempt to imitate the instruments of the orchestra, the music begins to feel mechanical and predictable. A soloist introduces his melody, repeats it, embellishes it some, builds the emotional level higher and higher, and finally releases in order to repeat the melody and then fade away. It’s a standard formula that sells billions of recordings all over the world. Eyermann has introduced that formula into half the tracks on Karla’s Fire .
"My Funny Valentine" has a 1970s groove with the electric bass and drums supplying a strong beat while Eyermann waxes melodic on alto saxophone. However, it’s the bassist and trombonist who stir the pot with aggressive solos improvised over familiar chord changes. Similarly, "Secret Love" spreads a different kind of fire. Eyermann pushes his alto into a hard bop tirade with the backing of an acoustic trio; his presentation resembles the flying fingers of Phil Woods. "Georgia on my Mind" and "Europa" are both presented with a Richie Cole playfulness, while Eyermann takes the opportunity to improvise at length. "Weekend Update" introduces a blues theme and an active contemporary charm like that of David Sanborn. But which is the real Tim Eyermann?
The ease with which he sputters and sparks through "Samba de Orpheo" may provide a clue. Eyermann employs vocal percussive effects through his flutes while an ensemble drives with streetwise gaiety. Gail Sanchez adds cuica for an interesting effect, as both Eyermann and Larry Coryell rip off fiery interludes. Included in the arrangement is the deep warbling voice of alto flute, a bouncy C flute melody, and a finale that includes piccolo.
The ballad "Manha de Carnaval" is performed as a guitar-soprano sax duo. The album’s other two ballads, "Now and Then" and "Greencastle," are arranged in an instrumental pop idiom. Similarly, "Just a Thought" and "Karla’s Fire" are presented up-tempo, but with strict adherence to an instrumental pop format. With Karla’s Fire, Eyermann has shown that he can present an eclectic variety of musical styles, all of them done well. It’s when he pushes the envelope of improvisation, however, that the saxophonist delivers music we’ll be sure to remember.
Personnel: Tim Eyermann- alto sax, soprano sax, C flute, alto flute, piccolo; Michael Sutcher, John Ozment, Fred Hughes- keyboards; Bill Foster, Wade Matthews- electric bass; Tom Williams- acoustic bass; Rod Gross, Keith Killgo- drums; Gail Sanchez- percussion on "Samba de Orpheo"; Larry Coryell- guitar on "Samba de Orpheo" and "Manha de Carnaval"; Rick Lillard- trombone on "My Funny Valentine" and "Weekend Update"; Mary Ann Redmond- vocal on "Now and Then".