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Monday, February 19, 2024

Kyle Jessen - Primitive (Relative Pitch, 2023)

By Jury Kobayashi

Hailing from Omaha, Kyle Jessen is a saxophonist making really compelling and powerful music. His latest and first full-length album release Primitive is a raw and uncompromising solo saxophone album. This album is another wonderful release from Relative Pitch Records in their series of solo instrumental albums.

I have always had a soft spot for solo albums and this one does not disappoint. The first thing that struck me when I listened to this album is the complexity of Jessen’s sound. The initial track, Death Trap, bursts out with a barrage of multiphonics, blisteringly screaming from the saxophone. Jessen wields these sounds with care and crafts a complex language that yields a tune built out of layers of multiphonics. Ambushed By The Spray of Lead, takes a different approach, a clear tone slurps up to a whistle and back down with growls interjecting throughout.

I am struck constantly by how patiently this album builds each improvisation. It is not a relaxed album but the methodical nature by which Jessen dissects, grows, or expands each musical gesture feels calm and calculated. Despite the screams and violence mentioned in the album description provided on Bandcamp there is also tranquility in the way that Jessen sculpts each song; this album is somehow both minimal and maximal at the same time.

My favourite track is the title track of the album that appears last on the record. Jessen covers the range of the saxophone squeaking out perfect altissimo pops against low bellowing notes. The dimensions of the altissimo multiphonics are staggering, and the bending of pitches, are almost harmonica-like. The leaps in register catch me by surprise in each listening of the track.

Primitive is a really exciting, impressive, and carefully crafted album. I encourage everyone who is a fan of this music to check it out.