This could be a novelty album if it weren’t for the following facts. First the music is impeccably played by a group of outstanding musicians. Second, the arrangement of the music is articulate, interesting and without detectable defect. Third, the contrabassoon artistry of Allen Savedoff, is just that, artistry. I imagine that it must be difficult to play a contrabassoon like it is a saxophone but Allen Savedoff manages to do this very well. It must also be difficult to put together such a diverse array of instruments and make them sound so inevitable. Kim Scharnberg gets the credit for arranging all tunes except for Summertime and Kim’s contribution on that score is admirable.
Mr. Savedoff also gets some sounds out of his instrument that are so organic sounding you will be looking for a huge snorting beast in your living room.
Allen Savedoff has gathered together a great and a large group of players for this album. Each of the players is very spirited and the recorded music is layered and vibrant.
I believe if you are going to do something that is musically different you want to have great material. Allen has chosen wonderful songs for this 56 minute recording. The CD opens with Brazil which is as catchy and listenable as any jazz standard. You will be amazed by the contrabassoon lead on this song. That big deep instrument is played with grace and agility.
Next up is I Feel Pretty Good, a brilliant mix of Leonard Bernstein and James Brown which is pretty hard to describe but very easy to listen to. Then there are Summertime, Caravan, and Round Midnight. The list goes on.
I spoke recently with the extremely gifted jazz vocalist, Rene Marie. She told me, this is not a quote, that she won't perform jazz standards any more because they are all used up. In Allen Savedoff's case that fortunately is not true. Allen has found room for fresh improvisation in the standards.
This is an album that fills a self-created niche in my collection. It is the first contrabassoonist led Free/Avant Garde album I've ever heard and truly enjoyed. If you are a be-bopper or rocker who is thinking about going over to the Free/Avant Garde side this is a great bridge album. In all other cases it is just a very good, very listenable album.