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Matt Garrison - Saxophone: Blood Songs

Edward Blanco By

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Presenting a primarily original repertoire of sparkling modern jazz, New York saxophonist Matt Garrison follows up his critically acclaimed debut, Familiar Places (DCLEF, 2011), with Blood Songs, an audacious musical tribute to his loving parents. With the exception of producer/trombonist Michael Dease, Garrison assembles a new all-star list of players, including veterans like saxophonist Eric Alexander and trumpeter Greg Gisbert, who mix it up well with young, up-and-coming stars including pianist Roy Assaf and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., Jr.

The opening "The Madness Within" offers a spicy taste of what's in store; though brief, it features a hot soprano solo from Garrison, with Dease and guitarist Dave Kain adding to the excitement. Garrison's tenor voice comes out loud and clear on "Trajectory," in an expansive solo highlight, before Gisbert weighs in with some of his own blistering shouts. In obvious reference to his mother, the upbeat, melody-rich "Mom's Song" features Garrison on baritone—the first calypso he's ever written.

The fires burn brightly on Gisbert's "Modern Man," showcasing hard-driving steamy solos from Garrison, Dease and, of course, the heated trumpeter. Dease contributes the beautiful bossa nova-styled "Force," one of the session's most outstanding pieces, featuring more bright spots from the trombonist and the leader, as well as warm lines from guitarist Andrew Swift (his only appearance). The blistering "Interrupted" is the album's centerpiece, with Garrison and Alexander—both on tenor and on fire—delivering memorable solos and trading salvos like two old galleon warships trying to blow each other out of the water.

Composer/lyricist Harry Warren's "The More I See You" sounds quite different from the original, with Garrison's lovely rendition borrowing from saxophonist Hank Mobley's take on this immortal standard. Garrison's closing "Hospital Room Blues" was written while visiting his ailing father in the hospital and is marked by Gisbert's high-pitched trumpet, and Garrison's bluesy display set against a swinging rhythm section, with propulsive posturing from Owens, Jr. and Assaf's deft right-hand accompaniment.

There are times when an artist is able to put together the right combination of musical talent, excellent writing and outstanding performances, and when he does, a successful outing is usually the result. That can definitely be said of Garrison and his impressive Blood Songs, an album where the highlights are many and the outcome is just too good to overlook. Perhaps Garrison should bottle the DNA strands from this set and clone his next project.

Track Listing: The Madness Within; Trajectory; Mom's Song; Modern Man; Force; Interrupted; Parental Units; The More I See You; Hospital Room Blues.

Personnel: Matt Garrison: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, soprano saxophone; Greg Gisbert: trumpet, flugelhorn; Michael Dease: trombone; Roy Assaf: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Ulysses Owens Jr.: drums; Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone (6); Dave Kain: guitar (1); Andrew Swift: guitar (5).

Title: Blood Songs | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: D Clef Records

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