Baritone saxophonist David Mott has turned out the finest solo sax recording since Anthony Braxton's Wesleyan 12 Altosolos (Hat Hut Records 1992). That is not to suggest that Mott's Dragonhorn is similar to Braxton's particular style. Mott's ten compositions are not given to episodic jumps, vibrations or anything remotely antiseptic. Rather, they are packed with emotion, atmosphere and with a sound as rich and full as a group formation and achieved without aberrant enhancements.
"Continuum" begins the collection with an exercise in the perfect blending of technique and irregular cadence. The effect is hypnotic while imploring a high level of listening responsiveness. "The Story" fluidly works its way toward a more exotic rhythm, employing similar variable patterns in the music. Most interesting in the opening pieces, is that Mott expands the scope of the baritone sax beyond traditional expectations. Just as singing is limited by the understanding of language, the instrumental voice has its own, sometimes artificial boundaries. Mott's improvising skills are in a league of their own, and he skillfully breaks down barriers without using a sledgehammer.
Mott explains, in his liner notes, that he was influenced by both Chinese classical music and painting when he created the haunting and beautiful "Light in the Mountain." Equally poignant, the balladic "Sweet" conveys a deep, rich sound that might be more probable from a bass but is warmly communicated here. "Trane to Huntington" follows, and transitions brilliantly from the influence of John Coltrane to the rumble of Mott's memorable rides on the Long Island Railroad.
The variety of this collection and Mott's compositional talents are very impressive, but it is his playing that impresses above all else. From the innate sounds of his native Canada on "Spirit of the Woods," to his classically influenced "Wordless," Mott has created a small masterpiece of innovation. Dragonhorn should have broad appeal across the mainstream and free jazz fan bases. It signifies an important awareness of both natural and musical environments.
Continuum; The Story; Light in the Mountain; Mixed Messages; Sweet; Trane to Huntington; Unspeakable Voice of the Shaman; Spirit of the Woods; Wordless; Suffering/War.
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