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The use of the saxophone to generate sounds outside the limits of its "design" has been a longstanding tradition in jazz, from the honks and squeals of the music's earliest practitioners, through the wrenching vocalizations of players like Ayler and Coltrane, and continuing on today through the latest generation of sonic explorers, including the wildly inventive player Mats Gustafsson. Joachim Gies, one of today's most creative exponents of "other" saxophone music, takes a different tack on Whispering Blue. Gies' vision for the extended saxophone yields intensely personal yet refreshingly delicate results.
Gies makes no bones in his liner notes that the goal of Whispering Blue is to reveal new sonic territory for the saxophone. He plays mostly alto and tenor, though certain tracks make use of other paraphernalia such as hoses, mutes, a trombone mouthpiece, and the dreaded overdub (on only four tracks, and coherent with the overall flow). His saxophone playing has an airy, ethereal quality, as he gradually adds, alters, and subtracts overtonal elements from the music. Very little of Whispering Blue is melodic in the conventional sense. Rather, it's a fine web of whistles, whispers, clicks, and chirps constructed around an intuitive thematic framework. Don't expect Gies to throw a lasso around your neck to yank you for a ride on these otherworldy excusions; he assumes a decidedly self-assured posture which gently beckons the listener to partake of his latest discoveries. For what it is, Whispering Blue is an unqualified success, a brilliant document. In a very odd way it bears a lot of similarity to the ambient arm of electronic musicthough it's clearly performed in the moment. On Whispering Blue, surreal animal and wind noises summon images of another universe bearing only vague similarity to our own.
Track Listing: Whispering Blue; Under the Surface I; In the Deep; From Afar I; The Hill Upon We Wander; Galeforce; From Afar II; Backwards; From Afar III; Under the Surface II; Soundwaves; From Afar IV.
Personnel: Joachim Gies: alto, tenor, and soprano saxophones; bass clarinet.
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me. If we don't run a review, Alligator Records is going to stop servicing us.
Night Flight opened up a whole new world for me--the blues led me, inevitably, to Basie, who led to Duke, who led to Mingus, who led to Miles, who led to ...