John Klemmer


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Saxophonist and composer John Klemmer was restlessly following some inner call in the late 1960s through the late '70s. Aside from his big-boned tenor sound and his trademark unique Echoplex on certain tunes, he was making music that crossed numerous jazz, pop, rock, soul, and Latin genres. 1977's Arabesque is a case in point. Co-produced by the saxophonist and Stephan Goldman, Klemmer used a pool of studio players on this date in addition to a small band. Drummer Lenny White and bassist Abe Laboriel made up his trio, while pianists Roger Kellaway, Pat Rebillot, and Victor Feldman alternately held down the piano chair. The most telling thing about this date is Klemmer's employment of some of the best Brazilian percussionists in the game in Airto Moreira and Alex Acuña. The brilliant guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves also appears on a couple of cuts. The musical fare here reflects the new urban jazz at the time -- which would eventually give way to smooth jazz. During this period, inspired by the breakthrough success of Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters, and Grover Washington's Feels So Good and Mister Magic albums, this new urban sound was polished, funky, breezy, and meaty. The tunes here walk an interesting line between deep melodic midtempo ballads such as "Paradise" and "Falling," that both make use of strings and shift dynamically from introspection to slightly more expressive forcefulness; airy, exotic, Latin-flavored workouts such as the title track and "Picasso"; and cooking full-scale workouts such as "Nothing Will Be the Same Forever" and "Mardi Gras," with funk backbeats and breaks. What ties such a seemingly disparate set of tunes together is rhythm. White in concert with Acuña, or Moreira -- or both on a couple of cuts -- lends a criss-crossing, very diverse set of Latin rhythms to virtually every track here, whether it be samba, light salsa, or Afro-Cuban rhumba. Klemmer, a wonderful melodic improviser who knows his way around the outside margins, keeps it focused and tight here, but his tone is so large and rich that the tunes can't help but soar when he's actually blowing. The album did very well upon its initial release, and served to spread Klemmer's ever-growing fan base while cementing the place of the new urban jazz on the radio as well as on automobile cassette decks.

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