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Sam Dillon: Out in the Open

Jack Bowers By

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One thing that must be said for Cory Weeds, the head man at Canada's Cellar Live Records: he knows talent when he sees and hears it. Tenor saxophonist Sam Dillon, who leads an excellent quartet on Out in the Open, his debut recording for Cellar Live, is a case in point. While Dillon is essentially unknown at present outside his New York City base, this laudable album should if nothing else help to widen his audience and enhance his visibility.

Dillon has had one brush with fame, having been named a semifinalist in the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition (won by Chile's Melissa Aldana). Perhaps one of the nicest compliments one can bestow is that, technically and tonally, Dillon shares the same ballpark with the likes of Eric Alexander or Grant Stewart, notably fast company with whom to be compared. But Dillon validates that assertion on every one of the album's nine tracks including a brace of his own compositions ("Out in the Open," "New Blues"). For a splendid example of Dillon's impressive chops, proceed directly to Cole Porter's "Night and Day," delivered at a pace designed to challenge even the most rapid-fire and resourceful improviser.

And as if to show he has more to offer than fire and brimstone, Dillon segues from "Night and Day" to the classic Matt Dennis / Tom Adair ballad, "Everything Happens to Me," eliciting warmth of another kind from his eloquent horn. Completing the trilogy of standards is the sunlit opener, "I Hear a Rhapsody." Horace Silver's temperate "Peace" follows, as do Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Triste," a bustling David Santoro theme that is simply "Untitled," and the torrid finale, Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone from the Sun." Dillon is sharp and clear-eyed on every one, as are the other members of his admirable group: pianist Peter Zak, bassist Yoshi Waki and the peerless timekeeper Billy Drummond—an unequivocal asset to any session. Zak and Waki solo astutely when called upon, while Drummond unveils his arsenal on "Untitled" and "New Blues."

A refreshing album from stem to stern, port to starboard, and one that, in a best-case scenario, should help make Sam Dillon's name and talents more widely known.

Track Listing: I Hear a Rhapsody; Peace; Out in the Open; Triste; Night and Day; Everything Happens to Me; Untitled; New Blues; Third Stone from the Sun.

Personnel: Sam Dillon: tenor saxophone; Peter Zak: piano; Yoshi Waki: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.

Title: Out in the Open | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Cellar Live Records

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