The Sonoran Desert lies across the American Southwest and Northwestern Mexico. It is where bassist Andrew Schiller was born and it is the inspiration for the music on this CD he has written that draws from jazz, folk and classical sources.
Schiller's quintet has a front line of tenor sax, alto sax and bass clarinet which combine into a consistently interesting blend of sounds. On "Gambelii" the three leap around together in tight unison on the theme before alto player Ethan Helm and tenor man Tony Malaby dig in for hard-blowing solos over Schiller's thick bass and Matt Honor's intricate drum patterns. On "Wet Hair, Dry Air" Hery Paz's bass clarinet gracefully leads the group in a circular waltz with the other reeds tooting and sliding behind her. "Sonoran" itself has the horns whirling in incremental minimalist progressions like a Philip Glass piece and on the prog rock-jazz hybrid "Shade For Shelter" they urgently run through an angular maze of melody before Schiller and Helm solo with heavy intensity
"Thorny Flora" is Schiller's tribute to another musician born in that Southwestern desert area, Charles Mingus, though the composition itself sounds more like a cross between Mingus' smooth sax lines and Eric Dolphy's tune, "Hat And Beard." High stepping bass underscores the deep tooting of the bass clarinet and the unified singing of the saxophones and Paz and Malaby both take deep, scouring solos. In addition to all this, there are three short tracks called "Western Themes" interspersed between the longer ones. On these the reeds intone measured laments with a folk music flavor over languid percussion and bass.
Andrew Schiller's compositions come off both busy and somber. His melodies can be dryly quirky and mechanical at first listen but the musicians bring them bursting into life and reveal their inner beauty. It's a unique combination of moods that somehow works and creates uniquely beautiful music.
Sonoran; Harquahaia; Gambelii; Western Theme #1; Wet Hair, Dry Air; Western Theme #2; Shade For Shelter;
Western Theme #3; Thorny Flora.
Andrew Schiller: bass; Ethan Helm: alto saxophone; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Hery Paz: bass clarinet;
Matt Honor: drums.
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