Saxlife Plays Yes: Total Sax Retain (2004)
Anyone who's ever collected crappy bootlegs of a favorite band will understand the illogical passion at the core of this tribute to Yes. SF Bay Area saxophonist with funkateers Ten Ton Chicken has transformed himself into a one-man sax quartet, charting out and playing all the parts of tenor, soprano, alto, and baritone (and on the gorgeous "We Have Heaven," a baritone floating on a chorus of altos).
Smeltz possesses the gutbucket throatiness of '50s jump blues but harnesses it to the beautiful, intersecting lines of multiple sax tones that evoke memories of David Murray, Arthur Blythe, Von Freeman and other horn legends. He's really that good.
This album is the product of six years of working and reworking the material, and the end product exposes hitherto unseen possibilities in these compositions. "Hovian Fantasy" begins with a saunter down a New Orleans alley and then attacks Steve Howe's folk roots in a medley that includes "Clap" and "The Ancient." What jumps out at one is how breathlessly pretty this music is when handled by Smeltz, whose only collaborators are brother George Smeltz on some unobtrusive drumming and fellow TTC member Gary Morrell, who plays some insightful guitar on "And You And I," which shines here as a song of pure joy, the inarticulate speech of flowers and streams.
Yes should be flattered and their fans will be pleased for a whole host of reasons by this lovingly crafted gem.
Track Listing: We Have Heaven; Turn of the Century; Hovian Fantasy (Clap-Arada-Mood For A Day-The Ancient-Sound Chaser-Clap); And You And I; The Big Medley (To Be Over-Future Times-Heart of the Sunrise-Then-Southside of the Sky-To Be Over)
Personnel: Jamison Smeltz - all saxes, George Smeltz - drums, Gary Morrell - guitar & mandolin