Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra

Fathom This A Retrospective

Whaleco Music WM 105 CD

You needn't be a card-carrying tree-hugger to dig this. We all know about the popularity over the last 20 years of saxophone quartets; here is a sax sextet (and now you know why they call themselves an Orchestra) featuring basic members Don Stevens, alto, contrabass sax; Kelley Hart-Jenkins, soprano, alto; Kristen Strom, soprano, alto; Rach Cztar, sopranino, soprano and Art Springs, bass saxophone; (no doubt that one in the liner photos that is bigger than the person playing it) and others, all wittily arranging and soloing and having a riotous good time.

There is a certain environmental consciousness peering around the edges here, but the group realize that Jazz is always better off for exhibition of a sense of humor too. So the delicious sendups of Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing..." crossed with Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" (who knew they were based on similar chords?), the chugging Springs original "Across the Serengeti" and a couple of Gershwins re-imagined cannot possibly fail to make one smile. Worked for me. It's the combination of irreverence (the Gil Evans-meets-Steely Dan take on "Amazing Grace") and love for tradition (where'd they find the sheet music for "The Darktown Strutters' Ball"?!) that does it. Occasional percussion passes through, but if you like the sound of the saxophone this is your CD: lushly arranged throughout and (as in the closing "Also Sprach Zarathustra") liberally spiced with yuks a la 3 Mustaphas 3. Whale song too. Come on, think Coltrane circa KULU SE MAMA if you have to...

by Kenneth Egbert.

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