Andy Middleton is an intense saxophonist. He focuses on the core of the melody and then extrapolates it through its musicality and in the freer inventions of his imagination. Middleton who now lives in Vienna, has picked a new working band. They help forge interesting vignettes, with pianist Tino Derado bringing in his own tasteful expressions to blood the music even more.
Middleton takes his compositions, as well as the two that stem from traditional sources, on lengthy excursions. This gives him the space to indulge his playing as he shifts timbre, finds unusual harmonies, slips in and out of time signatures, and constructs interesting edifices. Playing both the tenor and soprano saxophone, he filters earthy motifs and gives the tunes a dynamic vigor.
Middleton borrows from other musical sources, reinventing the portrait by daubing it with his own colors, and shifts the dynamics of the palette. "Christus Factus," derived from a Gregorian chant, is given Middleton's own becoming grace. With Paul Imm bowing the bass, the saxophonist brings in a lilting cadence on soprano. He drinks deep of the melody and lets it flowthe emotion warm and palpable. Derado, the perfect cohort, weaves a tantalizing web, gently widening the perimeters without losing the link to the melody.
"Afghan Caravan Song" is based on ethnic Afghan music. Middleton works the tonality on soprano saxophone, making judicious use of space and time signatures. He adds a large dollop of lyricism and lets it all settle into a hypnotic charm. Once again Derado carves his own melodic path that sweeps in and across the original melody, after which Middleton comes back with intense, tensile lines. The tangent is surprising, yet effective.
Middleton's gift as a composer is evident throughout the other tracks, each with its own attraction. "Cherry Street" leaves a special mark, however, with its haunting melody and the quartet's transcendent playing.
Personnel: Andy Middleton: saxophones; Tino Derado: piano; Paul Imm: bass; Alan Jones: drums.