Dick Oatts

South Paw

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Dick Oatts' fourth SteepleChase outing is wholly original, save for an unusual, vamp-based reading of "What's New" that winds up sounding a little like "Bemsha Swing." Joining the saxophonist are his regular rhythm mates, bassist Dave Santoro and drummer James Oblon, along with trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, who proves to be a stirring presence throughout. In this sparse and harmonically suggestive environment one really gets to soak in the wonderful timbre of the horns -- although pianist Harold Danko makes three strong guest appearances, adding variety to the session. Highlights include the placid and melodic waltz "Reconcile," the challenging, up-tempo "Raised Nine Ball," and the lightly bouncing, unorthodox title track. Oatts plays alto sax almost exclusively, recalling at times the silky, rich tones of Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond; he switches to tenor for the closing "Barbarian," a tricky, ever-modulating blues.

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