Shot x Shot: Let Nature Square (2008)
A group of voices does not have to sound like a choir. In fact, a contemporary take on choral work might be one where each voice takes its own liberties, possibly in improvisation. Inherent in that process is joint collaboration and framing of an idea, in a perhaps unspoken agreement that permits a reasonable flow. Voices can also be instrumental. And it is the quality of their regulation within parameters of a straight-ahead freedom that delivers good music.
Let Nature Square, a live performance from the Music Annex in Philadelphia in the fall of 2007, features a double saxophone quartet named Shot x Shot, unfolding fifty minutes worth of interaction that is reeling with clear, four-part voice diversification; four young guys shaping an identifiable groove.
Throughout, the two saxophones are intent to clarify their own unique tonality. The first track, "Scans," establishes the conceptual basis for which the rest of the recording will proceed. The alto has more to say than the tenor as it paints a tuneful picture over a bass and drum combination which provides the skeleton on which both horns can build. The harmonic distance between the alto and tenor gives substance to their mergence in sets of ostinatos towards the reprise of the theme at the end of the twelve-minute piece. The horns always move forward, with their musical lines managing to stay light and bright and letting the bass do the job of supplying weight. The drums align with the same purpose as the hornsto stay on top of the music and not sink.
The rhythm picks up on "Triple Double," and the horns synchronize and press on with ostinatos; their harmonic distance apart is even more evocative of the overriding pulse. A kind of lyricism penetrates "Overlay," perhaps due also to the slowness of tempo, yet, the bass squeezes out quickly bowed high-pitches and the drums alight here and there in percussive abstractions to present direction for the synchronous repetitions of phrases from the horns. The horns often come out of their channels to speak individually, but always remarry in terms of their harmonic settings.
Dan Scofield's alto ushers in the blues on "Oh, No." Matt Engle's bass takes a major role on this track while the horns synchronize behind it, only to switch places and dominate the instrumentation. Bryan Rogers' tenor takes over for a while, pursuing melodic phrasing as Dan Capecchi's stick work on the drums scatters bits of sound underneath, with the two horns coming together once again to close.
The recording's last track fulfills the kind of order set forth on the entire album, pinpointing each instrument's own vocabulary and voice. The narrowness of this purpose creates a breadth of versatility which allows for a grounded and unwavering musical statement. And when the entire quartet fortifies itself like a larger band, the tempo increases and the music finally stops, the listener can be more than satisfied.
Track Listing: Scans; Triple Double; Overlay; Oh No; AutoBonsai.
Personnel: Dan Capecchi: drums; Matt Engle: bass; Bryan Rogers: tenor saxophone; Dan Scofield: alto saxophone.