In July of 2022, percussionist Eddie Prévost celebrated his 80th birthday with four weekly concerts at Café Oto. The series has now made its way to four CDs, this being the first. It documents an ensemble of six saxophonists (two more were unable to attend) along with a rhythm section of Prévost, Marcio Mattos, N.O. Moore and Veryan Weston. The saxophonists included Jason Yard, Seymour Wright, Alan Wilkinson, Harrison Smith, Susan Lynch and Tom Chant. Each piece presents a different saxophone configuration, all bookended by ensemble pieces.
There are so many ways to listen! The musicians exemplify them in various and diverse aggregates as the concert reaches climax after climaxm and no matter how many are actually supposed to be playing at any given moment. The first set, the longest single piece on the disc, comprises what sounds like a series of entrances, something of a solo spot for each saxophonist against the expertly fluid rhythm section's backdrop. The saxophonists listen in what I'll call parallel motion. To my ears, it combines the best parts of activity and reactivity, as can be heard beginning at 5:51. Before that pivotal moment, saxophone support is at ebbtide, whispering in multiphonics above the rhythm section's arcs and accompanying whirlpools. A low rasping saxophone tone cuts through the calm and is answered by conjoining motivic bursts. These iterations and reiterations continue, peppering Weston's melodic interjections and ultimately raising the music to one of its dizzying dynamic heights. Repetition is the order of the day at this crossroad along the music's circuitous path, and the only player sidestepping them is Prévost. His foundational rhythms lead to a bass-drum-and-cymbal affirmation at 8:10, after which he is highlighted in duo and trio.
The briefer pieces function in similar fashion. I'll admit difficulty in identifying the individual saxophonists, but so many moments prove absolutely irresistible, such as the third piece's humorous opening, which sounds like two players way up in the stratosphere while a third drones resolutely below. It's all replete with gestural abandon, freedom in the most positive sense of the word, and it all comes to something of a head in the final ensemble piece. Loads of sustain sweeten an already tasty brew, and I'd love to know who it is, speaking of repetition, that ushers the music out with a phrase that might very well have continued if all else hadn't ceased! The applause is generous, the music is so much more than satisfying, and the abiding sense of deep engagement and fun proves contagious.
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