Tom Christensen: Paths (2002)
Like his previous release Gualala (Naxos 2000) where he plays a jazz oboe, multi-reedist Tom Christensen adds the French horn to his piano-less quartet on Paths. But this band's second outing with wood flutes, bass flutes, clarinets and hand drumming is not about eccentricity.
Christensen and company are all about making beautifully accessible yet adventurous music. Just as bassist Ben Allison has been doing in his own groups, Christensen expands the definition of jazz from a small group to a chamber ensemble and a spontaneous poetry band.
Christensen takes his cues on three tracks from poet Richard Brautigan, turning impulsive wordplay on 'Critical Can Opener' into inspiration for freeform music. Elsewhere things are more composed, yet maintain an open feeling sans piano. The two horn line-up of Christensen and Charles Pillow mixes tenors on 'Inuique,' and English horn and alto flute on 'Dude.' Their seemingly nonjazz combinations fit perfectly throughout. Christensen's soprano and Pillow's sopranino saxophones dance an affable T. Monk-like dance on 'Footnote.' The reason why this all works might just be percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, who favors hand drumming over sticks and is also a master of the brushes.
Christensen relents to convention on Harry Warren's 'You Are My Everything' playing it as a straight tenor trio in the style of his friend Joe Lovano. Then the band changes up Miles Davis' 'Nardis' remaking it in an Eastern style.
Eccentric music becomes an original vision when it is as smart and inviting as this disc.
Track Listing: Just To Play; Dude; Footnote; Negative Clank; Nostalgia; Iquique; Propelled By Portals; You?re My Everything; Longing Hoping Longing; Critical Can Opener; Nardis; Sam Was Born.
Personnel: Tom Christensen ? Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, English Horn, Wood Flute; Charles Pillow ? Tenor Saxophone, Sopranino Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Alto Flute; Ben Allison ? Bass; Satoshi Takeishi ? Percussion; Andrew Sterman ? Bass Flute (#2), Bass Clarinet (#5).