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The Sounds of Saxophones

Jerome Wilson By

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The saxophone continues to be one of the cornerstone instruments of jazz. Here are three recent recordings that demonstrate different approaches to the use of saxophones in the music.

Jordan Pettay
First Fruit
Outside In Music
2019

Jordan Pettay is a young Julliard graduate who makes her debut recording here, playing alto and soprano. Spirituality is a big part of her music and she plays several hymns during the set in respectful, attractive arrangements. She brings a subtly funky delivery to her soprano playing on "I Am Thine O Lord" and "I Exalt Thee" and is very moving in her soulful interpretation of "I Surrender All" over Christian Sands' swelling organ and piano. Elsewhere she shows her affection for two other very spiritual sax players, Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane. "For Wayne" is a lovely original with Pettay's floating soprano gently supported by Sands, Luke Sellick and Jimmy Macbride while her alto is featured on a relaxed saunter through Coltrane's "Straight Street." Elsewhere she leads a swinging sextet, featuring Sands and trumpeter Mat Jodrell, on the hard bop of "Whatever Happens" and swoons through some throwback 70's soul on The Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New." With this first effort, Jordan Pettay shows talent and promise.

Hearing Things
Here's Hearing Things
Yeggs
2019

Matt Bauder is a tenor saxophonist who has collaborated in the past with important forward thinking jazz figures like Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell and Rob Mazurek. He also has a retro side demonstrated by his organ trio, Hearing Things, which takes its cues from the likes of Dick Dale and Booker T. & The M.G.s., purveying a tongue-in-cheek blend of surf rock and sleazy organ jazz. The group's main sound is Bauder playing evocative honking tenor sax and twangy guitar over eerie roller rink organ and frantic drumming. "Transit Of Venus" has a sleazy belly-dancing vibe, "Shadow Shuffle" is a suggestive variation on "Green Onions" and "Wooden Leg" is cartoon South Seas exotica with brooding organ, baritone honks and slick tribal drumming from Vinnie Sperrazza. "Hotel Prison"mixes leering tenor with sliding guitar lines out of Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk and "Triple Step' is a lurching two-step with a campy, mock-horror vibe that would make a perfect theme for some low budget TV horror movie host. JP Schlegelmilch's goofy but energetic organ and Sperrazza's rocking drums fit right in with Bauder's over-the-top wailing in this campy, fun project.

The David Berkman Sextet (plus guests)
Six Of One
Sel Produced
2019

David Berkman is a pianist but his sextet features three saxophonists, Dayna Stephens, Adam Kolker and Billy Drewes with an occasional substitution by Tim Armacost. This CD is pliable and friendly with the sax players blowing strongly on each track. Armacost and Stephens really roll and swing on dueling tenors in "Blowing Smoke," "Billy" is a showcase for Billy Drewes' alto pushing and pulling through an angular melody line and "Sincerely" is a simple but lovely ballad pairing Drewes' and Armacost's yearning sounds.

Berkman wrote all this music and he has come up with interesting compositions that sometime give the players space to combine in intriguing ways. "Shitamachi" has a propulsive, mechanical beginning that leads to a brooding free trio of Stephens on tenor, Drewes on clarinet and Kolker on bass clarinet. "Blue Poles" mixes busy staccato piano runs with long, blended lines of alto, tenor and soprano and "Restoration" starts with a friendly, gospel- blues feel from Berkman's piano that carries through on the bounce of Kenneth Salters' drumming and Stephens' and Kolker's frisky chatter. This is a warm and lively CD that makes excellent use of the possibilities of its three saxophone front line.

Tracks and Personnel

First Fruit

Tracks: Whatever Happens; I Am Thine O Lord; First Fruit; You Make Me Feel Brand New; For Wayne; Straight Street; I Exalt Thee; I Surrender All; Are You Washed In The Blood?

Personnel: Jordan Pettay: alto and soprano saxophone; Christian Sands: piano, electric piano, organ; Luke Sellick: bass; Jimmy MacBride: drums; Mat Jodrell: trumpet (1,4); Joe McDonough: trombone (1,4).

Here's Hearing Things

Tracks: Shadow Shuffle; Tortuga; Wooden Leg; Stalefish; Houndstooth; Hotel Prison; Uncle Jack; Transit Of Venus; Ideomotor; Triple Step.

Personnel: Matt Bauder: saxophones, guitars; JP Schlegmilch: electric organ; Vinnie Sperrazza: drums.

Six Of One

Tracks: Blowing Smoke; Cynical Episode; Blue Poles; Billy; Sincerely; THree And A Half Munites; Kickstopper; Shitamachi; Restoration; Rain Rain.

Personnel: David Berkman: piano; Dayna Stephens: tenor sax, EWI; Adam Kolker: soprano sax, bass clarinet; Billy Drewes: alto sax, clarinet; Tim Armacost: tenor sax; Chris Lightcap: bass; Kenneth Salters: drums; Rogerio Boccato: percussion.
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