Tom Christensen: New York School (2005)
If composition is the first reference point for excellence, the second is arrangement. Christensen leaves space enough for each player to invest his own stamp. They do so with remarkable intuition and feeling, which constitutes the third element of distinction.
Christensen and Walt Weiskopf are the votaries of the opening salvo on "Guardians," their lines initially in consonance, diverging, opening a space for the percussion of Satoshi Takeishi and the bass of Kermit Driscoll. Christensen sets off on his solo journey, his tenor tracing deep, looping lines and then getting into a straighter path, which he shards with short jabs. Weiskopf is more acute on the tenor, bringing in a sharper edge, and then billowing the lines with honks. The overall effect makes the tune tensile yet buoyant.
The texture is lighter but nonetheless compelling on "Your Strange Son." The atmosphere circles round chamber jazz, and the English horn played by Christensen enunciates the mood perfectly. There is a fluency that glows, the temper extended by Driscoll, whose bass sings, and Takeishi, whose drums accentuate the flow. There is an ethereal quality imbued into "In Memory of My Feelings," the spare hand drumming of Takeishi inveigling into the domain of the bass clarinet and the soprano sax, Weiskopf detailing spiraling lines on the latter before a softer tonality absorbs him and Christensen. But shade has many depths, and Takeishi rings in the percussion for some trenchant color. Christensen's use of instruments is undoubtedly another manifestation of his artistry.
This is an experience that will reside in the soul for a long, long time.
Track Listing: Guardians; Further Digressions; In Memory of My Feelings; Asleep and Sleeping With Them; Your Strange Son; Oranges; Little Elegy
Personnel: Tom Christensen-tenor and soprano saxophones, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto flute and wood flute; Walt Weiskopf-tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet; Kermit Driscoll-bass; Satoshi Takeishi-percussion
Record Label: Playscape Recordings
Style: Modern Jazz