Tom Christensen

New York School

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Saxophonist Tom Christensen, as is the case with most jazz musicians, culls inspiration from a wide variety of sources, in and out of the artistic world. In this instance, the "New York School" is the legion of poets and painters associated with the pre-hippie beat generation of the ‘50s and early ‘60s, most specifically Frank O'Hara, Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns, and Grace Hartigan. Using a wide variety of reed instruments between them, Christensen and Walt Weiskopf team up to play a somewhat diffuse brand of post-modern music that defies conventional notions, reaches for new horizons, and doesn't take no for an answer. There are some pieces where they use twin tenor saxes, but mostly juxtapose upper and lower register woodwinds, including soprano saxophones occasionally, for a powerful effect that is accessible yet uncompromising. A crackling modal post-bopper "Guardians" opens the set and gives a good indication that the tenor horns together are not your grandfather's Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. They are as hip, but much more angular and incandescent in their approach. Their call and response during "Asleep & Sleeping with Them" is obviously a tone poem tribute to the whimsical, quirky vagaries and lilting ecstasy of spending the night with a significant other. While theorems are more implied than direct, a darker cavernous bass clarinet and tenor sax incursion for "In Memory of My Feelings" is based on lines and dots in four basic colors, and the ballad homage to friends deceased, "Your Strange Son," features somber double reeds like the oboe or English horn, and clarinet. More strident in concept is the 12-minute "Oranges," based on a one-minute-per-miniature 12-tone row with primarily solo segments for flute, bass clarinet, the two tenors, and rhythm section, and the quartet breaking out on the boisterous coda. Bassist Kermit Driscoll is a great supportive partner, and the underlying ethnic inferences, ranging from Asian and Arabic to Native and South American, are rendered by the nuanced hand and small percussion offerings of the great Satoshi Takeishi. The more progressive Christensen and the typically mainstream jazz player Weiskopf sound very good together, as if they'd been playing in this format for quite a while. Check this one out, as well as the other worthy new music releases from the Playscape label.

blue highlight denotes track pick