Philadelphia-area saxophonist Ben Schachter plays a wide range of reed instruments extremely well, although his primary voice is the tenor saxophone. He's been influenced by Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, yet his burly tenor sound is clearly his own, and his approach is both original and personal. If the music on his self-produced Nothingman is any indication, Schachter deserves to be much better known.
Sung/Unsung is the name of Schachter's current band, which pivots on the interplay between Schachter and guitarist Jef Lee Johnson. Schachter plays powerful, take-no-prisoners tenor sax, as well as showing a fetchingly lyrical side on soprano. Johnson's approach runs the gamut from restrained chordal strumming to full-out rockish distortion, and always appropriately. For example, on the free piece "Aged," Schachter's tenor practically bursts at the seams with feeling, and Johnson's wailing guitar, while assertive, is also supportive, never distracting from Schachter's fiery improvising.
Schachter recasts John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" in a rapid 6/4 tempo that also jumps into, then out of, a few bars of 4/4 in each chorus, and Schachter negotiates the tune's dizzying chord progressions with an explosive tenor solo that grabs the listener from the outset and never lets go. By contrast, Schachter's tenor invests his original ballad "'He So Beautiful': Emmett Wallace" with convincing warmth. On "Everyone's A Genius," Schachter and Johnson intertwine contrapuntally over a swinging rhythm. Two tunes unfold with off-kilter, hip funk beats, and "New Toy" features the leader's fine soprano sax work. The rhythm section is fully together. They are at the service of the music. They go where the music needs to go. With Nothingman , Ben Schachter has produced a top-shelf CD of modern jazz.
Track Listing: Tribal Delusions, The Day The Happy Jazz Cried, Moment's Notice, "Think", She Said (Melancholy), Suddenly Sentient, Everyone's A Genius, "He So Beautiful": Emmett Wallace, Queens Session Blues, New Toy, Nothingman, Aged.
Personnel: Ben Schachter, reeds; Jef Lee Johnson, guitars; Matthew Parrish, bass; Craig McIver, drums.