Friday, February 10, 2006

An update on the mouthpiece vortex ...

For the past month or so I've been using the Morgan Excalibur 8EL mouthpiece on my tenor. It took a little while to adjust my airstream but I've been pretty pleased with the results. I've been experimenting with various reeds and have had the best luck with Vandoren Java 3.5 and 4's. Another adjustment to the new set up was the addition of a Francois Louis "Ultimate Ligature". While the name is a bit braggocious, it sure beat the crap out of the Rovner ligature I was originally using. Never was a big fan of those Rovners as any of my students will attest ...

So far the mouthpiece has fared well in the various music situations I've found myself in - jazz duos, trios & quartets and Alex Torres' salsa/merengue band. I get to try it out with a big band soon as the Empire Jazz Orchestra's spring concert is right around the corner. Speaking of which, this concert's guest artist is Rufus Reid (the good news). Just read through the music today and it looks like a great concert - except that I have to play a ton of clarinet (which is very, very bad news).

If all this mouthpiece talk sounds a bit neurotic - you're probably not a saxophonist. ;)

Recent listening:

CHARLIE HUNTER TRIO Copperopolis (Ropeadope)
CHRIS POTTER Underground (Sunnyside)
HAROLD DANKO QUARTET Stablemates (Steeplechase)
JACK DEJOHNETTE/BILL FRISELL The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers (Golden Beams)
MANU KATCHE Neighbourhood (ECM)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

New music

I've been enjoying a few records in the past week or two. Yesterday I picked up a copy of Chris Potter's new album Underground. Potter's quartet is comprised of Wayne Krantz on guitar, Craig Taborn on rhodes, and Nate Smith on drums. Though bass-less in instrumentation, Taborn's left hand and Krantz's guitar often provide a bottom end while at other times there is no bass line in the traditional sense, rather just overlapping textures of rhodes and guitar. The underlying groove provided by Smith is decidedly in a rock vein, though Potter isn't content to stick with simple meters. It's great to hear the four musicians stretch out on this material - most tracks clock in around ten minutes. Three shorter cover tunes - Radiohead's "Morning Bell", Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom" and a radically re-harmonized version of the Beatles' "Yesterday" - help break up the longer pieces to make the overall album an interesting listing. Take a listen for yourslef at iTunes or visit Potter's website at You can also stream the song "The Wheel" in it's entirety at

Another record that I picked up recently was Manu Katche's "Neighbourhood". I'd been reading baout this record for quite some time and though it isn't scheduled to be released in the U.S. until later this month I figured I'd spring the extra few bucks and buy the import. Of particular intrest to me was the involvment of pianist Marcin Wasilewski and bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz as well as their occasional boss, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. I was a big fan of Wasilewski's Trio record on ECM last year and when he and Kurkiewicz aren't playing as a trio they are part of Stanko's excellent quartet. Add Jan Garbarek's tenor and the leader's prog-rock influenced drumming to the mix and the end result is smooth jazz of the highest order. Don't get me wrong, you won't hear any of these tracks back to back with Kenny G and the like anytime soon, but the quintet create an easy to stomach, Euro-jazz sound that is right up my alley. I will say that Garbarek's tone tends to stick out from time to time but I've been able to cope with it since everything else sounds so good. No website for Katche himself but you can read a little more about the album at ECM's website

A third album that's received it's share of spins on my iPod is Paul Motian's Garden Of Eden. The drummer's second release on ECM in as many years finds him shorting the name of the long standing Paul Motian Electric Bebop Band to the Paul Motian Band. It also finds the usual instrumentation of drums, electric bass, two tenors and two guitars augmented by a third guitar! Having the the third guitar doesn't alter the sound of the group much to my ears but it is interesting to hear two soloists at once while a third guitar comps. In any case I love a third of this record (the tunes by Mingus, Monk & Bird) and am still up in the air about the rest of it. It seems that once the bebop tunes are out of the way, time is thrown out the window. I enjoy an occasional rubato piece as much as the next guy but when ten out of fourteen pieces have no discernible pulse whatsoever I tend to find myself loosing interest. What kills me the most is that the tunes with a pulse swing so hard! I'd love to hear more of that. Perhaps if Motian had sequenced the tunes in a different order ... I don't know. I think this one requires more listening. Listen for yourself at iTunes.