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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Solo Sax

By Stef Gijssels

Catching up with some albums that have been waiting to be reviewed. A whole bunch of solo sax albums. Here is music for everyone's taste, from the poetic to the ferocious, from the gentle to the adventurous. I will not review them in much detail. I just want to update readers interested in solo saxophone about new releases. I'll try to capture the album's essence in just a few words, and the links should allow you to discover some more. The albums are in no specific order, apart from starting with the ladies. 

Alexandra Grimal & Benjamin Lévy - The Monkey In The Abstract Garden (OVNI, 2020)

French reedist Alexandra Grimal plays solo soprano on Disc 1 and she performs on vocals in the company of Benjamin Lévy on electronics on Disc 2. I am a great fan of the purity and the austere lyricism of Disc 1. Obviously Disc 2 is a relevant part of the total picture, and you can admire her singing - the purity, the austere lyricism - and Lévy's electronics, but it's less my cup of tea. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Rhonda Taylor - Afterparty (Self, 2020)

Recorded from her home in Mesilla, New Mexico, saxophonist and singer Rhonda Taylor surprises even the most experienced listener with her own idiosyncratic approach, ranging from gentle musings to raw and sometimes even brutal explorations, trying to live through Covid times. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Catherine Sikora - Sanctuary, Live At The Centre Culturel Irlandais Paris (Self, 2020)

Irish saxophonist Catherine Sikora performed this improvised piece at the Irish cultural center in Paris. It is not long. It is happy. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Lara Jones - Saxophone - Ensō (Self, 2020)

British saxophonist Lara Jones creates soundscapes, altered with electronics and ambient pieces. Even if the saxophone is the real lead instrument, it often disappears in the total picture. Not jazz, not really improvised music. She creates her own aesthetic in a very coherent way. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Chris Pitsiokos - Milquetoast (Self-Released, 2021)

A live performance by the young New York saxophonist. The sax resonates in the concert space. Pitsiokis uses this well. Silence, gentle sounds develop into deeply emotional multiphonics and back. The four tracks are not long, but worth checking out. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Dave Rempis - Coast To Coast (Aerophonic Records, 2020) & Dave Rempis ‎– Scratch And Sniff (Catalytic, 2020)

In 2017, master saxophonist Dave Rempis toured the United States, performing 31 solo concerts in 27 cities. "Coast To Coast" offers improvisations from the concerts in Washington DC and Los Angeles. There's lots of variation in his music, not only because he switches between saxes (alto, tenor, bari), but also because of his creative approach to improvisation. "Scratch And Sniff" offers us a live performance in Chicago, also from 2017. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp and Bandcamp

John Butcher - On Being Observed (Weight Of Wax, 2020)

The British saxophonist offers us six improvisations spanning the years 2000 to 2006, starting and ending with wonderfully resonating performances at the Oberhausen Gasometer. Between the expansive sound of these two tracks, you get more intimate and private pieces, providing sonic surprises and even moments of fun. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Martin Küchen — Det Försvunnas Namn (Thanatosis Produktion, 2020)

This album "The Name of That Which is Lost", is the last installment of the trilogy that already consists of "Hellstorm" and "Lieber Heiland", both of which received 5-star ratings. It is again a very personal and beautiful album, augmented with electronics and other sound snippets (the voice of Trotsky, Vivaldi, Glenn Gould, ...). The Swedish saxophonist goes very deep emotionally and into uncharted territories musically, continuing the sound created on the other two albums: one of sadness, melancholy and desolation, with little moments of anger, driven by a deep sense of injustice. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Mats Gustafsson - Padova Solo (Catalytic Sound, 2020)

Recorded at a concert in Padova, Italy in 2016, the Swedish saxophonist brings us six improvisations, some dedicated to football players. He plays piano mate, slide saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass saxophones. Gustafsson is powerful, gentle, subtle, massive, creative, funny and often surprising. Even with the unwieldy bass saxophone, his howls reach all levels of sensitivity. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp

Patrick Shiroishi - Eye For An Eye (Armageddon Nova, 2020) & Patrick Shiroishi - Resting In the Heart Of Green Shade (Tripticks Tapes, 2021)

On "Eye For An Eye", the Los Angeles saxophonist brings one half hour long improvisation on sopranino sax. The high-pitched instrument is a wonderful tool in Shiroishi's sonic lament. It allows for subtle expression and adventurous timbral explorations. "Resting In the Heart Of The Green Shade" is more ambitious and more varied, if only because he plays alto, soprano and tenor. Like on his previous albums, Shiroishi is not afraid of dramatic effects and of uncompromising emotional delivery. At times harsh, but always lyrical and coherent in his narrative. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp and Bandcamp

Seymour Wright - (If) I Remember Rites (2020) (TakuRoku, 2020)

We're back in England in 2020. Saxophonist Seymour Wright performs a lockdown live stream consisting of our pieces, called 'Rites'. For this album, only two 'Rites' were kept. The first one is a "solo for alto saxophone on window, shutters, radiator and wall", and is a high-pitched almost single-toned 15-minute piece . The second track is its exact opposite, "solo for three alto saxophones and their feedback", a deep-toned raw oscillating piece with rhythmic elements built around a tonal center.  

Listen and purchase from the label


Unknown said...

Hi Stef: Mrs Grimal, on her solo sax record, plays soprano and not tenor (as you mentioned). Best regards.

Stef said...

Thanks for the comment. Indeed: soprano. The rectification has been made.