Phil Davison: Straight, Bent and Uncut (iTunes)

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Phil Davison: Brazil Nuts
Phil Davison: Straight, Bent and Uncut (iTunes)

When Adolphe Sax invented the instruments in the mid 19th century which bear his name, he could hardly have predicted just what musical diversity this family of horns would encompass.

As an orchestral instrument it moved into dance bands, swing, allowed for the beautifully melodic tones of Lester Young, the furious experimentalism of Charlie Parker and the spiritual searching of John Coltrane. It is heard piercing the envelope in free jazz, playing the blues, giving drive to Fifties rhythm and blues as the forerunner of yakkety-sax rock'n'roll, in soul and funk bands, the austerity of ECM musicians like Jan Garbarek . . .

Dunedin-based saxophonist Davison explores the range of the instrument on this album for which the "uncut" refers to the fact it is all solo work, uncluttered by other instrumentation which allows him more freedom to shift emphasis and direction.

Solo sax is not as hard a call as it might seem, especially in these hands where melody is frequently to the fore, carrying the improvisations which reference blues standards (Blues Fallin' Down Like Rain, Goin' to be Rainin' Outside), New Orleans funk, the bebop standard Salt Peanuts (referenced then deconstructed and reinvented as Brazil Nuts Unsalted) and so on.

The space around the sound allows you to hear a brusque woody tone, sophisticated smootheness, a yearning, soulfulness . . .

With 15 pieces over 50 minutes nothing here outstays its welcome (the longest piece is the bluesy rumination Followed Her to the Station at five and a half minutes, the shortest the lovely miniature Buddy Bolden Said at 1.47) and yet within that time -- on three lovely old saxes, and one newer one -- Davison explores a lot of the language of the instrument on alto, tenor, soprano and baritone.

And has fun with it, as when he starts playing Sophisticated Lady and takes it elsewhere. The track is entitled Sophisticated Harry.

And in a very nice touch this album which feels real and present opens with the discreet sound of a needle being gently placed on vinyl.

From blues to reflective moods and through swing and funk, this is one to immerse yourself in. 

Phil Davison answers our Famous Elsewhere Jazz Questionnaire here

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