Like America's earlier Three Baritone Saxophone Band (Gary Smulyan, Ronnie Cuber, the late Nick Brignola), Canada's Baritone Madness teams three baritone saxophonists (Keith O'Rourke, Pat Belliveau, Gareth Bane) with bass and drums (no piano) for an engaging program which is centered mainly in the lower register but earns high marks for resourcefulness and enthusiasm.
While the booming sound of a baritone saxlet alone threemay not be music to everyone's ears, those who do appreciate it should find much to like here, as O'Rourke, Belliveau and Bane are quite good at what they do. For what it's worth (granted, not much to the casual listener), the solo order for each number is provided on the album jacket. The program itself consists of four original compositions by O'Rourke, two apiece by Belliveau and Bane, one standard ("I Hear a Rhapsody"), Charles Mingus' "Moanin,'" Jimmy Smith's fast-moving "Ready and Able" and one lesser-known tune ("Requested").
The co-leaders write well, and the session moves smoothly along behind their muscular voices and solid accompaniment by bassist Kodi Hutchinson and drummer Tyler Hornby who take a few engaging solo turns, especially on Bane's robust "A Long Time Coming." As one might expect from a mostly-baritone session, there are traces of the Mulligan influence along the way, as well as an occasional nod to the three masters alluded to earlier. For the most part, however, Belliveau, O'Rourke and Bane cleave to their own point of view, adopting a post-bop formula that touches on the familiar while leaving ample room for individuality and digression. Collectively, the three play in pitch-perfect unison with nary a bump or glitch to mar the encounter.
The end result may not be madness (too much self-discipline for that) but it does make for a pleasurable listening experience, at least for those who are partial to the heavy roar of a baritone saxor three. And these three may well be persuasive enough to draw some new adherents to the cause.
Moanin’; Remembering the Aramo; I-Yor; Port NOLA; Turbulent Trane; Requested; I Hear a Rhapsody; A Long Time Coming; The C.B. Shuffle; The Angels’ Share; June; Ready and Able.
Keith O’Rourke: baritone saxophone; Pat Belliveau: baritone saxophone; Gareth Bane: baritone saxophone; Kodi Hutchinson: bass; Tyler Hornby: drums.
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