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Bo van de Graaf: Shinjuku

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Bo van de Graaf: Shinjuku
Saxophonist and composer Bo van de Graaf is not well known outside Western Europe despite being one of the most interesting and creative figures in music. His Dutch ensemble, I Compani, has been active for almost forty years. Van De Graaf composes original scores based on classic films of Fellini, Bertolucci, Greta Garbo, and others. He fashioned a fascinating jazz opera based on Verdi's Aida (BV Haast Records, 2001), and a big band, Latin jazz tribute to food-themed multi-media. On his release, Off the Record: Eccentric Music for Audio Hunters (ICDisc, 2019) van de Graff featured pieces with twenty-five car horns, dual hurdy-gurdy players, and an improvised work directed by texted suggestions from audience members. If that all sounds like gimmickry, the finished product is not; van de Graaf produces serious if occasionally playful music. His semi-solo Shinjuku reveals the artist in frequently utilitarian settings and the results are powerful.

When van de Graaf switched from piano to saxophone many years back, the change was inspired by the playing of Archie Shepp, Gato Barbieri, and John Coltrane. The album's title is derived from the Tokyo theater where Coltrane played his first Japanese concert. In these sparse settings, van de Graff steps back from his substantial body of sonic collage with thirteen compact and compelling compositions. The saxophonist's stylish melodic lines on "Shinjuku #2 'Springtime'" (on alto saxophone) and "Shinjuku #3 'Benny Golson'" (tenor saxophone) are infused with dark atmospherics. More visceral is van de Graaff's solo sopranino saxophone piece "Shinjuku #7 'André Popp'" and the intense "Shinjuku #12 'Sopranino & Arabs'" with an uncredited ensemble of "Arab percussionists."

Shinjuku builds in intensity over approximately an hour. The album's single ensemble piece, "Shinjuku #8 'Intense'" is a bit of an outlier, feeling closer to van de Graaf's unconventional large group works; however, it is no less gripping. Van de Graaf's homage to his saxophone inspirations incorporates only a kernel of those influences in his unique approach. Shinjuku is soulful, urgent, and very satisfying; it is worth seeking out for fans of solo and duo saxophone performances.

Track Listing

Shinjuku #1 “Olanda In Due”; Shinjuku #2 “Springtime"; Shinjuku #3 “Benny Golson”; Shinjuku #4 (Solo Altosax) “Sax&Bass”; Shinjuku #5 (Group) “Ad Libido”; Shinjuku #6 (Duo) “Olanda In Due Italy”; Shinjuku #7 “André Popp”; Shinjuku #8 “Intense”; Shinjuku #9 “Tender”; Shinjuku #10 “Sax & Drums”; Shinjuku #11 “Ruhig”; Shinjuku #12 “Sopranino & Arabs”; Shinjuku #13 “The Sopranos”.

Personnel

Bo van de Graaf
saxophone, alto
Additional Instrumentation

Bo Van De Graaf: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, sopranino saxophone; Arjen Gorter (5), Dion Nijland (8), Mark Peters (4): bass; Fred Van Duijnhoven (5), Makki Van Engelen (8): Tootie Heath (10): drums; Albert Van Veenendaal (8), Frank Van Merwijk (5), Michiel Braam (1, 6): piano; George Dumitriu (8): violin; Annelie Koning (8): voice.

Album information

Title: Shinjuku | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: icdisc


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