Andrew Rathbun's CD The Idea of North was inspired by the late classical pianist Glenn Gould's radio documentary of the same name, though the latter debuted back in 1967 (after Gould had retired from public performing). Rathbun, a fellow Canadian, used the diversity of his homeland's geography and climate, plus the solitude of much of the landscape, as stimulus for his compositions. The saxophonist penned six sketches to give his musical interpretation of Canada. "Harsh" unfolds into the avant-garde, with his hard-blowing tenor sax interacting with the tense rhythm section. As Rathbun switches to soprano sax for the tantalizing post-bop "December," one can feel the sense of isolation and loneliness during a winter journey far from civilization. The interplay of trumpeter Taylor Haskins and pianist Frank Carlberg is a highlight of Rathbun's demanding "Rockies." Rathbun also incorporates music by others, with a haunting treatment of Wayne Shorter's ballad "Teru" (playing tenor) and a majestic setting of 18th century German composer Christoph Gluck's Minuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirits, where he again switches to soprano. Andrew Rathbun's The Idea of North needs no film footage to convey the wonders of Canada.
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