Formed in 1984, the modus operandi of this saxophone quartet is rooted within performing a select sampling of a given artist/composer’s discography. They’ve tackled and re-stylized works by minimlaist composers, Steve Reich and Philip Glass for example. However, this newly issued product marks my introduction to the U.K., based quartet. And why life sometimes offers unanticipated surprises, I’ll go out on a short-limb by asserting that this new album will be a no-brainer type selection for my 2007 top-ten list.
One of the great progressive/jazz-rock bands of all time gets a personalized makeover here, featuring Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper chipping-in on one track. More importantly, the quartet executes these distinctive compositions with a sense of ownership that’s noticeable from the onset. In essence, the musicians offer a bit of tender loving care within the body of these gorgeously crafted reinventions. Much as an artist would carefully dab a canvas. Enamored by a pristine recorded sound, the quartet executes layered choruses and feathery passages while maintaining the Soft Machine’s wistfully melodic aura.
On "Mousetrap," they render pumping lines, wrapped into a sonorous and melancholic series of movements. With circular phrasings and emotively-generated rhythmic flows, the band’s expansive musical plane comes to fruition here and throughout. No doubt, many of these works boast expansive frameworks amid harmonious group interplay and a mosaic of sentiments. And on "Everything Is You," Graeme Blevins’ lush soprano sax work could reduce a man to tears. Hence, it’s a powerful statement via the band’s gracefully enacted melodies and intricately engineered outline of concepts and practices.Guest artist Morgan Fisher performs on a hurdy-gurdy while using subtle electronics and vocalizing during "Outrageous Moon." In addition, Fisher’s vocals emit notions of a shadowy character lurking in the background to complement the quartet’s weaving ostinatos. And in other regions of this disc, the artists’ soar skyward while offering a counterbalancing set of musical environs. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, the ensemble sounds as though "they’re knocking on Heaven’s door," within the sum of the parts of this stunningly attractive program. (A newly-found desert island disc, indeed