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Lan Xang: Lan Xang

Glenn Astarita By

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Lan Xang is one of three new releases on saxophonist David Binney's Mythology Records. This exciting and cutting edge alto saxophonist adds another sizzler to his impressive discography and this time teams with the indefatigable tenor and soprano saxophonist Donny McClaslin for a powerhouse affair that packs a mighty punch. Supported by an equally stalwart rhythm section consisting of Scott Colley (bass) and Jeff Hirshfield (drums), Lan Xang perfectly illustrates the virtues of Independent record labels. If the big conglomerates cared more about the music instead of the quick return on investment, bands like Lan Xang would gain more exposure and perhaps renew faith in a predominately market driven formulaic approach. There's is a lot going on under the hood these days and fortunately the Internet may present or widen the scope of opportunity for the viable Indie artists who deserve equal time.

Lan Xang strikes a huge blow for an all acoustic jazz quartet. On "Vevasis" Binney and McCaslin take on the semblance of a mini-sax section complete with rapid forward motion, loads of thematic statements and melodic choruses. This cut is tight, spunky and propelled by the deep rich bass of Scott Colley and veteran New York City based drummer Jeff Hirshfield. Shifting tempos and on-a-dime metrics are evident though not overbearing or fatuous. On "A Hundred Kings" Hirshfield and Colley tear it up underneath Binney's lightning fast soloing. Binney engages in memorable lyricism while McClaslin's tenor and soprano sax work is brawny yet emphatic. "Vevasis" is a showcase for the band's discipline and precision. "Rob Petry," television's fictional 1960's character from The Dick Van Dyke Show, is a clean, no-nonsense Bop inspired tune. Honorable mention goes to Scott Colley who churns out a turbo charged bass solo. "2nd Line Sally" pays homage to the New Orleans shuffle beat with meaty soloing and horn arrangements from Binney and McCaslin.

There are some short interludes strategically placed throughout the recording where Binney picks up the wood flute or Tunisian horn and Scott Colley's "Bells" depict an East meets West scenario. This band is hot! The twin saxophones of Binney and McClaslin are on fire. The dialogue is beguiling. Lan Xang has the recipe for musical success and being a monstrous live act. Putting the technical assets aside much can be said of the intelligent compositions and arrangements. They hit you hard and the excitement level registers a perfect 10. One can only hope that this band continues in a similar path. Full steam ahead guys!


Track Listing: Xang 1; Day of Fear; Night of Truth; Vevasis; Far Rockaway; Rob Petry; Xang 2; 2nd Line Sally; Xang 3; Tango, Waltz and Variations On; Bob Dole/ Blee Bop Ba Bley; Xang 4; A Hundred Kings; Xang 5; Grunge Factor; Xang 1 (alt).

Personnel: David Binney: alto saxophone; Donny McCaslin: tenor and soprano saxophones; Scott Colley: bass; Jeff Hirshfield: drums.

Title: Lan Xang | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Mythology Records


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