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Heath Watts and Dan Pell: Breathe If You Can

Glenn Astarita By

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Heath Watts and Dan Pell: Breathe If You Can Philadelphia residents, soprano saxophonist Heath Watts and drummer Dan Pell, improvise with relentless passion here. But they uncannily combine a tight-knit vibe while simultaneously expanding their repertoire via an angular, intuitive and muscular gait. Inspired by visual artists such as Kandinsky and Picasso, the saxophonist coins his methodology, NODOT (Non-Objective Dynamically Ordered Tones). With their inaugural release for Leo Records, the artists delve into quite a bit of give-and-take exercises, supplanted by multihued free-form excursions that pack a hearty punch.

At times, Watts surfaces as a whirling-dervish, maintaining a fluid mode of attack. And to complement that notion, Pell helps drive the flow with punishing blows to his modest drum kit. It's partly about polyrhythmic fury that seamlessly morphs into vivid expressionism. Nonetheless, the musicians' breadth and scope of execution is founded upon extended solos and contracting motifs during variable metrics and a forthright game plan.

On "However," they summon real life experiences thru the voices of their instruments by pronouncing asymmetrical sentiments consisting of angst and humor. They even crank out a mock military-progression to further entwine a sense of realism into the grand schema. Pell's prominent drumming more than compensates for the lack of a bassist.

Breathe If You Can is one of the more absorbing free-jazz releases of 2008, especially when considering the non-chordal framework. These situations do not always provide fruitful results, yet these gents perpetuate an underlying sequence of kaleidoscopic designs that spawn gobs of interest.


Track Listing: Letters; Work; 4; People; On and Off; Crutches; However; Love; Rules.

Personnel: Heath Watts: soprano sax; Dan Pell: drums.

Title: Breathe If You Can | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Leo Records


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