Amadee Castenell, Jr.

Sax Dreams

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Though this blistering tenor saxman is best known for his lengthy stint playing with the legendary Allen Toussaint Orchestra down New Orleans way, only a few tracks here feel distinctly Bayou. But how gloriously bluesy they are! "I Wouldn't Mind," written by Toussaint, rolls along like an instrumental Dr. John tune with Castenell's low toned, seductive melody gliding over Scott Goudeau's punchy steel guitar harmony. "Mumbo Gumbo" is a playful, free-for-all jam of a honking sax, bubbling B-3, and fiery electric guitar riffs over a jittery bass-driven funk groove. "No Clue" centers around a slow drawling conversation between Castenell's dreamy cool and a distant, distorted steel guitar response. The rest of the time, Castenell -- who varies his tenor approach from the lighthearted soulful style of Richard Elliot and the romantic sizzle of Gato Barbieri -- plays things closer to the smooth jazz vest, simmering tenderly over easy bouncing midtempo grooves. On occasion, he'll jump out with a percussive high squeal in the middle of one of these tunes ("Night Vision," for instance) just to see if we're paying attention. Toussaint proves to be a great producer for his protégé, his multi-faceted keyboard contributions typified by jumpy "Catch Me," where synth strings embrace Castenell's hypnotic improvisations before giving way to Toussaint's spirited piano solo. While the saxman could have put even more of a regional stamp on the material, his playing is strong enough to warrant an album title and front cover that are less generic and reveal more of his personality.

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