I started digging sax—after, that is, the days when the Dave Clark Five and other Brits were incorporating it into their rock songs—with gents like Wayne Shorter, Hank Crawford, Grover Washington, and the like. Gato was too strident for me at the time (I not long after learned to appreciate his style), but it wasn't too very long that I schismed a bit and leaned more toward the explorative side with Anthony Braxton and the cubist cats catching my ear. Then I hipped up to Dave Liebman, checked into CTI, Blue Note, ECM, and elsewhere, and my ear was pretty well rounded out. In the interval, the god of gods on sax, Jan Garbarek, became my all-time default guru, though I confess to owning a very pronounced weakness for Hank Mobley. Man, did that guy come up with rightoeus twists and turns! Alas, Dave Sanborn, Kenny G, and others came along, commercialized the instrument (and, yeah, Grover got into it as well, along with Sadao Watanabe, etc.), and I'm sorry to say I fell out of love for a long long time.
Lately, however, I've wanted back in, and discs like Libby Richman's Open Strings are reminding me of that day when the melodic could meet swing and bebop in camaraderie rather than antagonism. Listening to her, I'm taken back to Rusty Bryant and the era when cats like Grant Green could locate a hip 'phonist for a really soulful session. Richman, an altoist, favors that time period as well and covers Jobim, Joe Henderson, Ray Noble, and others before moving on to pen four originals, every one of them worthy. Open Strings was created through a love of the guitar, interestingly enough, and Richman couldn't have picked a better accompanist than Bruce Edwards, who sails alongside with élan and grace when harmony is called for and then steps put for some tasty angular cubist and bop-heavy solos.
Just as important, perhaps more so, are her duets with husband John Philpott on tenor, Lullabye of the Leaves a prime example. The two have a simpatico that evolves not only from their relationship but as well from a syncopated relish for the tones of their respective axes. Playing off one another as contrasts, the listener catches a rich palette of coloration and hue, not to mention a blended mid-ground where the instruments play and sing. If you miss the day when melodics figured as readily as inventiveness, this disc will take you back…but ya just might find yourself sitting up in surprise when you catch a bit of Klaus Doldinger and others popping up in her era-bridging facilities.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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