Noah Howard: One Eye Open, the Other One Closed (2004)
Blues are everywhere, and saxophonist Noah Howard knows it. So do his bandmates on this newest escapade for his own Alt Sax label. Yet, there's more. Howard employs an old blues lyric as the basis of his title track. Sung by Eve Packer, his frequent partner in song, the piece represents the crème de la crème of modern blues interpretations. Packer and Howard play hard-driving romps for half of the disc. Hence much of their music is rooted in energy and elan. His alto sax sings in its own inimitable manner and Packer's pipes weave flirtatiously inbetween.
To that end, "Gasoline Alley Crack-Up" comes across as the standout surefire tune. The flipside of the set welcomes the piano of Bobby Few and the drums of Bobby Kapp, both frequent running mates of Howard and also improvising luminaries in their own right. Sans any sort of bass, the trio works from resplendent chords and acheives some fervently enacted three-way dialogues and semi-structured hodgepodges. Therefore at times they drift apart, only to coalesce at various points. It's sort of like capturing or perhaps fabricating more voices or tonalities out of their instruments, where they transmit divergent contrasts via a mulitfarious approach and mostly avoid pre-conceived notions by bending the rules a bit. Utimately it's a journey of discovery and expansion.
Of course, the program is far from typical easy listening type fare. Essentially, the entire production demands the listeners' attention and imaginative powers. Shiny laurels and his own share of kudos are owed Howard for this endearing affair. (Feverishly and platitudinously recommended!)
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Track Listing: Pine Box Blues/ Gasoline Alley Crack-Up/ Can
Personnel: Noah Howard- alto saxophone, cane fife; Eve Packer- vocals & handclaps; Bobby Few- acoustic & electric piano; Bobby Kapp- drums & percussion. Recorded: July 7, 2002, NYC.
Record Label: Altsax