The Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra isn't really an orchestra, but rather, a saxophone sextet that sometimes adds acoustic bass, drums, or percussion. The thing that makes the group unique and sets its apart from other jazz-oriented saxophone groups that were active in the 1980s and/or '90s (such as the Rova Saxophone Quartet, the World Saxophone Quartet, the Swedish Sax Septet, and the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet) is the fact that it has employed all of the instruments in the saxophone family--not only the alto, tenor, soprano, and baritone saxes, but also, the bass, sopranino, and contrabass saxes. (The contrabass, a huge instrument that is over six and one-half feet tall, is especially rare). One hears all seven of those instruments on Fathom This, a collection that spans 1986-1999 and includes material from Whales' first five albums along with a few new recordings. This CD is quite unpredictable--the material ranges from Earl Hagen's haunting "Harlem Nocturne" and a Duke Ellington medley to South African post-bopper Abdullah Ibrahim's "Kramat" and Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra." A portion of the proceeds from Fathom This were to be donated to the American Oceans Campaign (AOC), an environmentalist organization that was co-founded by actor Ted Danson. For those who've never experienced the pleasures of this quirky, chance-taking group, Fathom This would the best and most logical starting point.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson