With several previous recordings as a leader in addition to his many appearances as a sideman on other albums, Dan St. Marseille is known exclusively as a tenor saxophonist who now, with this release, joins a select group of musicians recording a straight-ahead jazz album with clarinet as the lead instrument. Though he began playing music with the clarinet at the age of nine, Swinging With The Saint is St. Marseille's professional debut on this instrument in one of those rare albums of modern jazz led by the voicing of the clarinet instead of the saxophone.
This disc contains ten tracks of challenging originals and familiar standards given a new treatment from the different texture of the clarinet. The result is a varied straight-ahead sound with a sprinkle of New Orleans flavor, a taste of bossa nova and a groove of swing, producing an enjoyable set of music. Assisting St Marseille here is a fine group of players consisting of pianist Chris Dawson, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Thomas White, forming a tight quartet and rhythm section delivering faultless musical support.
With shades of the great bebop clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, St Marseille introduces the music with a colorful rendition of "There Will Never Be Another You. This is followed by Herbie Hancock's "Finger Painting, and one of the best versions of Antonio Carlos Jobim's classic bossa nova "So Danco Samba, clearly one of the spicier tunes on the album. The pronounced voicing of the clarinet stands out on such tunes as the Lenny Tristano-influenced clarinet and piano melody of "Because It's There, that's also a feature for Dawson. The leader's play on "Rosetta evokes comparisons with clarinet masters Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. The one track not to be missed is the very hip and jazzy "Inca, featuring an appreciable outing by the leader and terrific power drumming from White.
Dan St. Marseille may be more recognizable as a saxophonist but his training and love for his first instrument come glaring through with a formidable performance on Swinging With The Saint, a truly heavenly and charming recording of entertaining light jazz.
There Will Never Be Another You; Finger Painting; So Danco Samba; Moonlight in Vermont; Just A Closer Walk With Thee; Because It's There; Rosetta; Sweet Lips; Inca; Frankie And Johnny.
Dan St. Marseille: clarinet; Chris Dawson: piano; Chris Colangelo: bass; Thomas White: drums.