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Paul Flaherty: Voices

Farrell Lowe By

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Voices is an album of solo saxophone music freely improvised in the studio by Paul Flaherty. He's been at it since the '70s and has become an underground champion of chasing the Eternal Now. The subject of these sonic musings is freedom—freedom from the constraints of traditional harmonic, melodic, and compositional forms—freedom to go, baby, go wherever the Spirit takes him.

It's obvious from the get-go that he can play his horn well. He can move around the sax with fluidity and he has a sweet command of the altissimo range on either horn. His tone lands somewhere between Sonny Rollins and Anthony Braxton. Rollins is well known for his free- association improvisational flights over harmonic changes, and Braxton is well known for creative improvisations within his own open-ended compositional forms, and he made jazz history with the release of his first solo saxophone recording entitled For Alto in 1968.

Flaherty takes neither of these avenues for solo saxophone improvisation, but seems intent upon chasing down his own elusive spirit(s). This perspective is more akin to the work of Jack Wright, Tom Guralnick, or perhaps Noah Howard.

Each piece sounds as if he simply begins playing the horn, then he starts shaping the mystery into something he seems to know. Free improvisation often assumes this form, and at its best, can take the player and the audience to heretofore unknown worlds. At its worst, it is terribly self- indulgent and of little interest to anyone other than the player. This disk falls somewhere between those two points for reasons that are not entirely Flaherty's fault, but problems that seem often to come with the turf.

This album could have benefited from having a producer other than the improviser himself at the control panel. Another perspective can really provide deeper insights into a recording project of any kind, and free improvisation may need an outside perspective even more than other styles simply because it is such a personal music. If this album had been shorter in overall duration, it would not have lost any of its impact on the listener. This would be a stronger recording if it had been a more concise statement.

Fans of improvised music should find this album enjoyable and essential to any devotee of the form.

You can find this album by writing to Paul Flaherty at: Wet Paint Music / POB 1024 / Manchester, CT 06045.


Title: Voices | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Soul Note


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