Tom Christensen


  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

The oboe is a rare instrument in improvised music or jazz, but you can enter Christensen's name as not only a new presence on the scene in this area, but as a musician attempting to cultivate inroads and innovations. He also plays a meaty tenor and clarinet, while second woodwind player Charles Pillow is a perfect partner for sharing ideas and trading lines. The glue is hand percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, whose frame drum and cymbal work surrounds the ensemble with sensitive accents and at times driving rhythms. Ben Allison and Doug Weiss split bass-playing time on half of the nine tracks. There are four tenor duets, where the two richly reflect influences including Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Michael Brecker, and Joe Lovano. "The Cats of Ulthar" has urgent kinetic rhythms, deep resonant repeated two-note bass from Allison, and scattered saxes in either pastel forms or forceful outcries. "Tangoed Web" is self-explanatory, a 4/4 pace buoying contrasting melodic and harmonically spun lines. The hard bopping 12-bar blues "Or Not" is mostly in a traditionally jazz bag, while "Thank You" is a soul and spirit ballad. Christensen uses his oboe with cd clarinet, his own and Pillow's, even overdubbed. The title track uses a loping 4/4 ostinato bass and Takeishi's perfectly conceived and executed percussion under swirling melodicism in a chamber jazz fashion à la Oregon. The near nine minute "Cellular Coyotes" is a 6/8 dance for oboe, two clarinets, and bass clarinet. Christensen's English horn and Pillow's oboe evoke ominous gray, slowly wrought, impending calm-before-the-storm images during "Bare Trees," while "Waiting Is" uses a fanfare intro to bass and percussion setting up the lush inquisitive oboe and multi-clarinets, pace quickening for more groove and solos over ten+ minutes. The lone cut featuring Christensen's soprano and Pillow's sopranino saxes see them trading contrapuntal lines for "New Pedal Tune," another boppish theme with solid, upper atmospheric swing. Hopefully this is the first of many fine recordings Christensen and friends will bring to the jazz world. It's a delight to hear music that is this original without being clichéd or trite and relevant to the real world of the present, the ancient, and the future. Recommended.

blue highlight denotes track pick