After a series of challenging and complex recordings, saxophonist Andrew Rathbun gives us his "unplugged" album, minus the larger ensembles present on his earlier releases. The seven-piece Jade
(FSNT, 2000) with vocalist Luciana Souza, the recording of Margaret Atwood's poetry on True Stories
(Blue Moon, 2001), and even his quintet recording Sculptures
(FSNT, 2002) with Kenny Wheeler focused more on writing, rather than his horn playing.
With Renderings: The Art Of The Duo (FSNT, 2006), a chamber jazz duet recording with George Colligan, and the nearly contemporaneous Shadow Forms, listeners can focus on Rathbun's outstanding horn work. This session sans piano is a masterwork of sound.
Rathbun is ably assisted here by drummer Jeff Hirshfield and bassist Scott Lee. This session reminds me of the "SteepleChase sound" and other sessions with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Billy Harper and Archie Shepp. Rathbun invited Boston legend George Garzone to sit in, and the pair trade tenor blasts on five tracks. The up-tempo opener, "Street Talk, catches your attention with flexing muscles and traded tenor jabs. This joy continues between the two on "Scatter Scott and the very sweet "Pass It On. The very somber "The Fall 9/11, by Scott Lee, is a soft upper-register discussion of questions raised and never answered in 2001.
Rathbun picks up his soprano saxophone for two tracks, "Two The Matt and "Herbie At Sixty, and clarinet on "Drewsie. These tracks showcase Rathbun's penchant for a more intimate playing. He reminds us that he is comfortable inside and out of the jazz medium.
The pared-down lineup in which Rathbun is presented here allows one to revisit his prior recordings with a clear perspective of his command of his instruments.
Personnel: Andrew Rathbun: tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, keyboards; George
Garzone: tenor saxophone; Scott Lee: bass; Jeff Hirshfield: drums.