Monday, August 18, 2014

Recent Listening: Slowfox - The Wood

The Wood (Jazzwerkstattis the first release from the trio Slowfox comprised of Sebastian Gramss (bass) Hayden Chisholm (alto sax) Philip Zoubek (piano). The album was recorded in September 2013 at the Loft in Cologne and was released earlier this year.

All of the compositions are by Gramms and most of the fourteen tracks are fairly short with the longest clocking in at six-and-a-half minutes (the meditative haunting “To Keep”) and only three others break the four-minute mark. While I don’t really have too much of a problem with longer tracks, it is refreshing to have plenty of shorter pieces. 

I'm not a huge fan of prepared piano but don't mind its use in moderation - here discretion is used throughout. Its use on "Deep" sets up great groove with the bass with Chisholm floating on top. There is more subtle use of prepared piano on "But I Have" which adds to the mood, bringing things down before the return of the melody.

Those who know me know that Hayden Chisholm is one of my favourite saxophonists and musicians. I find it difficult writing about my friends but I've decided to add a few thoughts. His expressive use of bends, trills, vibrato and dynamics. The way he embraces the air in his tone – something that runs counter to many teachers thoughts on saxophone sound production. There is urgency in his higher register that popped out to me on this recording. He has explored microtonality in depth and anyone interested in microtonal concepts would be wise to check out his music (it's present on the Slowfox album). You can hear his roots in Johnny Hodges coming through in “Are Lovely.” The fleetness to his lines on the up-tempo “The Woods” and the economic approach on "To Keep" grabbed me. The effortless of it all is the high point for me. All told, he has such a distinctive voice on the horn, one that hits me on a deep personal level. 

A very enjoyable recording and I'm looking forward to future releases from Slowfox. Here's some video of the studio session and this is a 30 minute live clip from earlier in the year (sans piano).

Chisholm is part of another sax/piano/bass trio, Breve (with John Taylor and Matt Penman) who are due to release an album this year on Pirouet. The trio has a couple of earlier concerts available at Plush Music.

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