May 7, 2019
And She Speaks
Tenor Saxophone Solos
Liquen Records LRCD 011
Clean Feed CF 495 CD
Tora Records 001
Singular sounds, these CDs by four improvisers from three different countries demonstrate how each uniquely copes with propelling innate creativity figuratively clad in nothing more than reeds, keys, ligature and metal. The four are Dutch tenor saxophonist, clarinetist and shakuhachi player Ab Baars: tenor saxophonists Antonio Raia from Italy and Josep Lluís Galiana from Spain; and Italian baritone saxophonist Giuseppe Doronzo, all of who have comprehensive credentials in bands and/or academe.
Baars, who has been one of the mainsprings of Amsterdam’s ICP Orchestra for more than three decades, cheats a bit here by animating some tracks with the airy, abstruse sonics of the shakuhachi and the mellow arabesque he can create with his distinctive clarinet tones. However, when he concentrates on tenor saxophone he shows off his dexterity, unfolding it through the farthest technical reaches as well as pacing it with slow-paced balladry. The latter is showcased on “Poor Wheel Persian Blue”, but expressed in a distinctive manner as his Ur-masculine narrative tone is interrupted with double-tongued stops, tone trills and snorts, yet cemented with rounded tones by the end. Meantime he turns other tracks such as “Naima Blue Saphir”, “Solitude Cadmium Yellow” and “We'll Be Together Again Blue Amber” into displays of technical skills, but ones that also refer to the melodic bones of tunes by John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Carl T. Fisher which make up the skeleton on which he grafts new musical muscle and sinew. “Solitude Cadmium Yellow” for instance mixes cracked notes, Aylerian screeches and squeezes with interludes of melodic concentration that braid trilled variation into a fluid narrative, “We'll Be Together Again Blue Amber” matches key percussion, wavering vibrations and pressurized runs with blubbering thematic variations which climax in a glossy but cerebral ending.
Concentrating on the tenor saxophone, València-based Galiana, who has performed with numerous bands as well as teaching at the university level, attests to his experiments in saxophone sound advancement with this CD, his first recorded solo effort. Like Baars, he can build sequences from moderato story-telling while also outlining responses to the melody, as he does on “Fantaisie par quartier” and more profoundly on “Lost in Piccadilly”. That second improvisation finds high-pitched breaths succeeded by a series of timbral extensions whose logic is expressed with wide ranging cries and paced with barely there growls, puffs and tongue slaps. Broadening his palate to pure experimentation other tracks feature a potpourri of exceptional technical exercises, but ones that come across as more accessible than off-putting. “Sequenza I per sassofono tenore” for instance, upsurges its exposition from tongue slaps and snorts to excavation of low pitches from the instrument’s bow. Diaphragm intensity is brought into play on “Seat 13” as a multiphonic double burr is separated into layers of colored air. However the pivotal tracks here are “Fragment…” and “…With Variations”. The wispy melody introduces on the first track that’s defined with higher-than-altissimo pitches that narrow and sharpen into aviary affiliated split tones by the end, are further expanded on the second. Huge circular movements of irregularly and intensely vibrated tongue stops and reed bites are repeated on “…With Variations” to the extent that it appears that timbral augmentation will never stop. Then in the penultimate minutes the narrative deflates to near-silence, becoming muted and lower-pitched by the shaking finale.
Stacked up with the others Asylum comes across as the most conventional of the four programs. Its experimental qualities are mostly spatial since it was recorded in the deserted and now unused orphanage Filangeri Asylum in Naples with 10 microscopes placed strategically. While post-production knit together the 12 sequentially recorded solos, a palimpsest of lyricism remains. Throughout the Neapolitan melodies that had been sung in the building are sensed if not heard. Raia makes the connection that much more obvious by wrapping up the session with a quiet and slow-moving variant of a “Lullaby”, and a few tracks before that working through a variation on “Misty” which may be played superfast and distorted, but where hints of the familiar melody bleed through. Even “The lights inside scream” includes a bel canto theme elaboration that includes lyrical slow-moving echoes even after altissimo overblowing takes over the narrative. Another stand-out is “Fire on heart” which despite split tone overblowing, could be recast as a movie soundtrack. Then there are other tracks which are more exploratory. “Refugees” is one of them here. Its buzzing interface and double-tonguing may be muzzy, but don’t block the essential story telling.
Standing apart from these tenor saxophonists is Barletta-born, Amsterdam-based Doronzo, whose baritone saxophone has been featured in bands led by Michael Moore, given workshops and worked with choreographers. Also in opposition to the others who try to expand the saxophones timbres with overblowing, Doronzo’s modulations avoid the honking blats usually associated with the low-pitched instrument for mid-range and upper-level applications. One of its most profound applications is on the concluding “Canti dal Grano” where a long, unbroken line of juddering multiphonics becomes so pressurized that it hardens into marching band-like percussiveness by the end. On the other hand “Nesciobrug” begins nearly soundlessly, inflates to wavering patterns, spirals to altissimo penny-whistle-like peeps and is completed with warmer, whispers. He can also output speedy tremolo patterns as on “Rotunda” and then abruptly shift musical gears to a mellow smoothness in a tenor saxophone-like register to propel the piece forward and to a logical conclusion.
Solo saxophone sounds may not be for everyone. But each of these reed players confirms that with the proper planning and performance the results can be as fascinating as from any other music.
Track Listing: Speaks: 1. Saji Deep Saffron 2. Body and Soul Cerulean Blue 3. And She Speaks Purple Amaranth 4. Naima Blue Saphir 5. Solitude Cadmium Yellow 6. And The Moon Swam Back 7. Poor Wheel Persian Blue 8. We'll Be Together Again Blue Amber 9. Blame It on My Youth Cadmium Red
Personnel: Speaks: Ab Baars (clarinet, tenor saxophone and shakuhachi)
Track Listing: Tenor: 1. City Life 2. Sequenza I per sassofono tenore 3. Fantaisie par quartier 4. Fragment… 5. …With Variations 6. Seat 13 7. Lost in Piccadilly 8. Rhythm & Funk 9.Julia (How to Improvise What I Want To Say You)
Personnel: Tenor: Josep Lluís Galiana (tenor saxophone)
Track Listing: Asylum: 1. Torna a Surriento 2. Refugees 3. The lights inside scream 4. There is the wind among the rocks 5. Dicentencello Vuje 6. The sound of voices mingled with scraps 7. Fire on heart 8. Follow the trail 9. Misty 10. The children in the yard 11. To Giulia 12. Lullaby
Personnel: Asylum: Antonio Raia (tenor saxophone)
Track Listing: Goya: 1. Arundo Choir 2. Flusso di Coscienza 3. Conversation 4. Nesciobrug 5. Engaku-Ji 6. Rotunda 7. Canti dal Grano
Personnel: Goya: Giuseppe Doronzo (baritone saxophone)