Frank Morelli / Keith Oxman: The Ox-Mo Incident

Pierre Giroux BY

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Frank Morelli  / Keith Oxman: The Ox-Mo Incident
Do you recall the last time you heard a tenor saxophone and bassoon jazz/classical album? Never, you say. So with the release of The Ox-Mo Incident you are about to enter uncharted territory, but with a happy ending. Bassoonist Frank Morelli and tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman have combined their considerable talents to offer their unique interpretations of compositions that would bridge the gap betweenthe jazz and classical worlds.

The bassoon is not an easy instrument for which arrangements can work as it has a low pitch, few keys and a limited range. However, beginning with the opening track "Happy Talk," Oxman and Morelli have found a way to take advantage of the bassoon's soft and evocative timbre in addition to having a snappy version of the number. Like several other tracks on this session, "Full Moon And Empty Arms," has its origin in the classical world as a theme from Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Second Piano Concerto." In 1945 Frank Sinatra gave it a reading which gained popular acclaim. Now Oxman and Morelli make full use of this antecedent, before pianist Jeff Jenkins, gives a tip of his fedora to pianist Red Garland prior to running out the balance of his thoughtful solo.

The title track is an original composition by Keith Oxman. It takes liberty with the title of a 1940 novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark called The Ox-Bow Incident. Created as a thirteen bar up-tempo blues theme, Morelli shows his virtuosity by delving into the upper register of his instrument, followed by Oxman whose improvisation develops organically from what the structure of the piece has to say. Jenkins' solo has some smart hooks, before bassist Ken Walker says his piece. "Stranger In Paradise" comes from the 1953 Broadway musical |Kismet , with the original construct stemming from Alexander Borodin's opera Prince Igor. Rather than giving the number the expected ballad rendition, the band swings the arrangement with Morelli covering the melody with appeal and agility.

The final track is "I Could Have Danced All Night" from the Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical My Fair Lady. If the listeners are paying attention (according to the liner notes), they will pick up that Oxman's introduction used the same sequence of notes from the main theme of the third movement from the rondo from the "Bassoon Concerto" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. After this somewhat oblique musical reference, the number plays out in accordance to the Lerner and Loewe melody with Morelli in an exploratory mode, with other band members such as Oxman, Jenkins and Walker giving strong solo closing statements.

Track Listing

Happy Talk; Full Moon And Empty Arms; The Surrey With The Fringe On Top; Baubles, Bangles And Beads; The Ox-Mo Incident; Three For Five; Stranger In Paradise; Poor Butterfly; A Wasp In Search Of A Hart and Lung; Pavanne; I Could Have Danced All Night


Keith Oxman: saxophone, tenor; Frank Morelli: bassoon; Jeff Jenkins: keyboards; Ken Walker: bass; Todd Reid: drums.

Album information

Title: The Ox-Mo Incident | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Capri Records

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