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The Nuclear Whales: Fathom This

Jim Santella By

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I love a good saxophone orchestra! The Nuclear Whales’ compilation Fathom This includes an eclectic program selected from their five albums, as well as several new tracks. Clearly recorded sound, a modern swinging approach, and a mixture of jazz with classical traces make their performances something special. As with other stellar saxophone ensembles, this one uses deep bass reed instruments to anchor while allowing the higher voices to float. The huge contrabass saxophone is used only for special effects; it’s particularly effective when combined with exotic tabla rhythms on "Casbah Shuffle." A photo of the unusual instrument and the rest of the band may be viewed at http://www.nuclearwhales.com .

Abdullah Ibrahim’s "Kramat" folds the saxophone orchestra’s unique melody and harmony around South African rhythms supplied by guests Paul van Wageningen, John Shifflet, James Kassis (marimbas), and steel drummer James Munzenrider. A lovely melody floats over improvised material provided by the core sextet of Kelly Hart-Jenkins, Dale Mills, Art Springs, Don Stevens, Keven Stewart, and Kristen Strom. "Fascinating Rhythm" swings out with support from guests Larry Grenadier and Vince Lateano, while "Harlem Nocturne" rings familiar and true, done by the core unit with all the emotive power attached to that classic tune. Several pieces have a connotation as cartoon music, such as "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Alabamy Bound" and "Darktown Strutter’s Ball." They’re fun and light-hearted; the latter includes an interesting bass saxophone solo that features Bill Trimble with the melody. On "Stars and Stripes Forever," using Bobby Van Eps’ classic swing arrangement, the band subtracts one beat from the middle of each opening 16-bar phrase for a subtle surprise. With Mills and Strom trading fours on an entrancing "Summertime," the orchestra is so effective at creating scenery that they raise goosebumps there and throughout the album.


Track Listing: Visitors from the Deep; It Don

Personnel: Mark Sowlakis- sopranino sax; Rach Cztar- sopranino sax, soprano sax, alto sax, baritone sax; Kelley Hart-Jenkins, Kristen Strom, Dale Wolford- soprano sax, alto sax; Jordy Fraser- alto sax; Dale Mills, John Davis- alto sax, tenor sax; Art Springs- tenor sax, baritone sax, bass sax; Don Stevens- alto sax, tenor sax, contrabass sax; Keven Stewart, Ann Stamm Merrell- baritone sax; Bill Trimble- bass sax; Victor Morosco- sopranino sax, soprano sax, alto sax; Larry Grenadier, John Shifflet- acoustic bass; Vince Lateano, Paul van Wageningen- drums; James Kassis- drums, marimba; James Munzenrider- steel drums; Ashwin Batish- tablas; Michael Spiro- cowbell, chekere, guiro; Edgardo Cambon- congas.

Title: Fathom This | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Whaleco Music


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