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Recorded nearly three years ago in Cologne, Germany, this session features a group of modern mainstream jazz artists who’ve got their eyes set on the future. Saxophonist Andy Middleton dedicates the album, his fourth, to his young daughter, who certainly deserves a better world. Ecological concerns and other global social issues would drive any responsible parent. Can we make a difference? Middleton hopes so.
Look at the titles he’s chosen for his original pieces. A moody “Three Mile Island” looks down in sorrow at what has developed. “Atlas Shrugged” moves stealthily through fluid peaks and valleys that color the countryside with glistening hopes. Trumpet and saxophone share expressive moments that wonder about our collective futures. “X’s for Eyes” jabs and lunges right and left, forward and back, with quick, jerky steps that dare you to chart your course without considering all the consequences. Middleton has his say through impressionistic music and through its various moods.
The saxophonist shares much of the spotlight with trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. Both connect seamless phrases and share like actions in order to portray each theme. Their front line combined voice, while opting for far too many unison sections, carries a light sensation throughout the program. Wheeler squeals up high when left alone, while Middleton prefers to stay within the usual range of his instruments. On tenor, he establishes a gritty presence that speaks to his audience with brief, evenly connected bursts of conversation. On soprano, he expresses with disconnected phrases.
Bass clarinet hues and a dark, dense harmonic structure give the listener much to appreciate. Thoughts about our future on this planet have their place, deeply embedded in the music’s meaning. Will we survive? Middleton’s moody impressions leave some doubt.
Track Listing: Ode to Ken Saro Wiwa; Les Beaux; Three Mile Island; Gaviotas; Federico; At the Foot of the Hill; Naugahide; Bass Intro; Atlas Shrugged; X
Personnel: Andy Middleton- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Sheila Cooper- alto saxophone; Kenny Wheeler- trumpet, flugelhorn; Nils Wogram- trombone; Darcy Hepner- clarinet, bass clarinet; Henry Hey- piano; John Hebert- bass; Owen Howard- drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.