You could say that an entire album with solo sax might be a boring experience, yet it isn't in the hands of musicians with skills and vision - and for that matter, with great physical capabilities too. Three of those were released recently that are really worth mentioning, but their approaches are entirely different.
Simon Rose - Schmetterling (Not Two, 2011) ****½
If the first track gives a kind introduction into the concept, the second piece starts with a phenomenal cry that will resonate till the end of the album. Rose explores every emotional aspect of the sound he can get out of his instrument, extremely raw, but then delivered in a slow, inevitable way. There is no urgency at all. Just the endless wails of despair, of anger, of sadness, or if you wish even deep resonance with the universe. The depth, the heaviness of the sound, the multiphonics and circular breathing, the vibrations, the bending of tones .... all contribute to giving a kind of natural primeval quality, something that unveils emotion without the add-on complexities of culture, or call it music stripped of all superfluousness, reduced to sheer vulnerable feelings.
Not for the faint of heart, but an incredible listening experience.
Buy from Instantjazz.
Norbert M. Stammberger - Poem IV (GNU Records, 2011) ****
German saxophonist Norbert Stammberger is the exact opposite of Rose, who has a more minimalist approach on his baritone, tuned for the occasion in 1/4 and 1/6 tones, avoiding volume, working on his sound and sophisticated murmurings into a long trancelike repetitive texture. As he says, the sounds come from nowhere, and go nowhere, they just are. No sudden blasts here, no cries of agony, but cautious and subdued development of intimate, meditative shades of color, yet incredibly intense to listen to.
Music of an unusual fragile beauty.
Listen and download from eMusic.
Greg Osby - Solos - The Jazz Sessions (Original Spin Music, 2011) ***½
Comparing altoist Greg Osby with the two albums reviewed above is not entirely fair. Osby's music is of a different nature : stylish, broad in scope, technically astonishing, but then in the traditional sense of using the instrument. On this album he improvises on his own compositions, doing a great job at keeping the quality of those intact with his single solo instrument. His approach is lyrical and fully based on the stylistic breadth he has, ranging from St. Louis blues to more complex modern jazz. Without a doubt, Osby's music is the more upbeat and sophisticated of the albums reviewed here, but possibly because of that the less memorable. But, I must admit, that's a very personal appreciation.
Listen to and download Greg Osby on eMusic.