Michael Rosen

Elusive Creatures

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The debut album by an American saxophonist on an Italian label with a stellar Italian rhythm section is a laudatory feat. Rosen is a composer and musician of vast ability, and the way the listener notices these gifts is by what he doesn't do. Rosen plays -- as do his wondrous sidemen, bassist Paolino Della Porta and drummer Giampiero Prina -- with great understatement and grace, allowing the tune to do its own work in the hearts of the musicians. The deceptive logic at the soul of Rosen's playing, allowing his soprano to touch -- with deft feints and whirling twists -- on skeins of notes all falling directly into the melodic pocket of the tune, is a large sense of harmonic richness that comes from having no piano. He and Prina are freed from the strict rigors of harmonic consonance by the absence of the mediator of those harmonies, the pianist. As Rosen's soprano -- or his tenor for that matter -- becomes a singer, his solos take on the weight of the musics he plays without taking on their baggage. Check the dazzling arpeggios in "Charming the Snake" or the awesome lyrical beauty of "Starry Notes," where Rosen begins the tune a cappella and then turns his melody inside out once the band enters and he and Prina can "speak" to one another in the intervallic void. The bluesy soul that emanates from his horn then becomes the same elementary force of nature that made tunes like "Chelsea Bridge" possible in so many different settings. This is a very auspicious debut, by a quiet yet terribly gifted young player. Let's hope somebody else takes note soon.

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