I think it's safe to say now that sax music has finally, thank God, come back into its own and will remain in situ for an appreciable period. Blame Kenny G (and, yes, though it's heresy: even Dave Sanborn) as the beachhead of its formerly errant ways, then toss in Yanni, John Tesh, George Winston, and a bevy of others as cronies in the fell deed, using different instruments to accomplish the same end. Peter Frampton and Comes Alive were of course the precursors, after which the floodgates opened and a coupla decades were lost. Punk turned everything upside down and died an incredibly swift death, but sparked what eventually became an end to the madness, all and sundry sick and tired of bullshit, whether initiatory or reactionary. We're once again settling into musics with substance. That's where Ian O'Beirne comes in.
Glasswork is out and out pure sax music arising from an understanding of the core of the instrument. We must keep in mind that the saxophone was elbowed out of classical musics because, like the guitar, it was a sinful tool of the devil with an even greater wont to stir libidinal passions, and well, the halls of classicalia have ever been surfeited with prigs on all sides (practitioners, critics, writers, listeners, etc.). There's a certain justice to that, though: when all's said and done, the only thing any instrument is concerned with is pitch, which is nothing more than vibration, and the saxophone's pitch zeroes in on earthy tones that frequently travel through the ears to the brain and then down to…um, as Monty Python would have it, the naughty bits.
Yep, even when Gato Barbieri would evoke that trademark sax yelp and over-the-top blare of his, it was inevitably Rabelaisian, an ode to, say, Panurge rather than an Arthurian Tristan/Lancelot. O'Beirne, however settles in the sensuous midground, neither prude nor wanton, a combination of intellect and earthiness. John Klemmer, you may well imagine then, is frequently recalled as the CD progresses. Crucial to the colorations, though, are guitarist Tim Wendel's chordal understructures (keyboardist Tim Brey takes over when the tempo upticks, as in Duel), which, unusual to the instrument, are actually pinging washes, though when he steps to the fore, first heard in Sea of Stars…yow! Just as sensual as O'Beirne's mellifluously inflected lines, one sumptuous repast harmonizing with another.
Glasswork is all of a piece, each cut brother to the last and introduction to the next, continuing what Hank Crawford, Rusty Bryant, Grover Washington, and others had enshrined long ago. Ian's goal was to meld cityscape with dreamscape, abetted by the clever observance that goals are their most useful when just out of reach (and, man, an entire book of philosophy could be written on that single point!), and we can only hope he never arrives at his destination. As with zen, the journey is what matters.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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