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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Solo Sax

Adam Pieronczyk - The Planet Of Eternal Life (Jazzwerkstatt, 2013) ****

Polish saxophonist Adam Pieronczyk delivers an extremely beautiful solo album on soprano saxophone. To play solo on an entire album is a real challenge, yet Pieronczyk manages perfectly. Apart from his own repertoire, he deals with standards such as "Cherokee" and "Giant Steps".

He has always been a very lyrical improviser, and that aspect is at its best when you hear him play in a solo setting. He literally sings, often in an effortless, organic way, like birds on a spring morning, freely and without any sense of urgency, without any other agenda than just to sing for the beauty of the day, the beauty of life.

Pieronczyk's tone is crystal clear, warm and rounded, a pleasure to keep listening too.

Highly recommended for fans of intimate and optimistic music.

On a side-note : Jazzwerkstatt is one of these labels where it is incredibly difficult to find the relevant information on their website. The album is out, it is on iTunes and on eMusic, but that's about it. The label's website has no more information than the album's cover, it has no search engine either, no possibility to select by artist, etc. And to be fair, Jazzwerkstatt is not the only label with flaws like these ones.

Yong Yandsen - Disillusion (Doubtful Sounds, 2013) ***½

Yong Yandsen is a Malaysian guitarist turned saxophonist, and he is in a way Pieronczyk's mirror image, at least on the albums reviewed here. Yandsen plays fully improved solos on tenor, very much in the tradition of Albert Ayler, screaming and howling, but then without the spiritual sound to it, often closer to Brötzmann, reducing his soliloqui to raw power and outbursts of emotional expressivity. As the title suggests, this is music full of agony, distress and despair, desolate and ferocious.

You can buy it from

Various Artists - Solos Vol. 2 Blow Improvised Music from Blowing Instruments Players (Solosolo, 2013)***

Sure, "Music From Blowing Instruments" is not only solo sax, but you get a great overview of some of Japan's more foreward-thinking horn-players, all in a solo setting. You get them in the following succession :

Kenichi Matsumoto on tenor saxophone, Rabito Arimoto on trumpet, Takero Sekijima on tuba, Kunikazu Tanaka on tenor saxophone, Takumi Ito on amplified tenor saxophone, effects, Toshihiro Koike on trombone, Kunihiro Izumi on alto and tenor saxophones, Akira Sakata on clarinet, Yoichiro Kita on trumpet, Naoji Kondo on baritone saxophone, Yasuyuki Takahashi on trombone, Yasuhisa Mizutani on metal clarinet, Junji Hirose on tenor saxophone, Daysuke Takaoka on tuba, and finally Masafumi Ezaki on trumpet.

Those of you familiar with Japanese avant-garde music, is that they are daring to go into very far extremes of sound, and you get that here, with pieces that are close to silence, such as Kunikazu Tanaka, and others like Takumi Ito whose amplified tenor offers a wild screeching of feedback and noise. And of course there is some material that is more in between both extremes, but barely.