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Genres: Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1

Saxemble is the first major-label release by a quintet that includes drummer Cindy Blackman and four reed players including James Carter. This quintet inevitably reminds one of the World Saxophone Quartet, for Saxemble al...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Saxemble
Title: Saxemble
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Warner Bros / Wea
Original Release Date: 5/14/1996
Release Date: 5/14/1996
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Styles: Avant Garde & Free Jazz, Modern Postbebop, Bebop
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 093624618126, 603497133369

Saxemble is the first major-label release by a quintet that includes drummer Cindy Blackman and four reed players including James Carter. This quintet inevitably reminds one of the World Saxophone Quartet, for Saxemble also capitalizes on the resemblances between a four-horn combo and a vocal quartet to emphasize the doo-wop and gospel flavors in modern jazz. And like the WSQ, Saxemble attacks the middlebrow stolidity of mainstream jazz both from the low-brow perspective of '50s R&B and from the highbrow angle of '60s free jazz. It's a measure of the album's success that Saxemble finds the common thread that ties together pieces by Monk, David "Fathead" Newman, Eddie Harris, and Albert Ayler. --Geoffrey Himes

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CD Reviews

Saxophone collective
N. Dorward | Toronto, ON Canada | 11/08/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)

"This is the 2nd album by this grouping (the first was _Inappropriate Choices_), with a few personnel changes. The basic group is the four saxophonists Frank Lowe, Michael Marcus, James Carter & Cassius Richmond, plus on a few tracks Alex Harding & Bobby LaVell. The drum chair is held by Cindy Blackman (who replaces the late Phillip Wilson). This is thus a variant on the saxophone quartet formula pioneered by the World Saxophone Quatet, & the album touches most of the same bases: R&B, Mingus, the Ellington sax section, Ayler. One additional source is evident in Michael Marcus's fondness for Roland Kirk's multi-instrumentalism. (Marcus plays a manzello on several tunes, in fact, which sounds like a rather weirdly pitched soprano sax.)It's not a bad album, & yet I find it hard to see the point of doing something so close to the WSQ. The choice of covers sometimes borders on the obvious--"Freedom Jazz Dance", "Rhythm-A-Ning", "Monk's Mood"; & the arrangements & original compositions aren't especially remarkable. These are mostly the work of Michael Marcus, who is (perhaps immodestly?) the most heavily featured soloist on the disc, along with the young James Carter. I don't think Marcus a very interesting player; Carter _is_ an interesting player, but he's occasionally tempted here into the showoffy grotesquery that can sometimes overwhelm his good sense. Frank Lowe is disappointingly the least prominent musician on the album, with only three brief solos. He's a veteran of the ESP scene of the 1960s whom I'd have liked to hear a little more of; the curious are instead directed to his solid 1980s album _Decision in Paradise_ (with its remarkable band of Geri Allen, Don Cherry, Grachan Moncur, & the Moffetts). -- Cindy Blackman strikes me as perhaps the wrong choice for a drummer here: she is very good at booting it along, but she's not a subtle player nor does she have much concern for sound-colour. The sound is thus rather hard & unlovely--this really could have used a bassist, in fact, as the effect of having a sax choir over drums is to make the overall sound rather topheavy.Worth a listen to those curious about the players involved, but it's hard to get too excited about this disc, considering how oversubscribed the field of saxophone quartets already is. Grab the WSQ's _Dances and Ballads_ to hear how it should be done, or some of ROVA's discs to hear a more exclusively avantgarde take on the instrumentation."
Not So Much a Group Effort
Cabot Bartlett | New York, NY | 04/13/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)

"This album is not exactly an easy listen - and this is coming from an accomplished musician. Saxemble's sound here is more fusion jazz, which doesn't seem to work with an ensemble of saxophones. The group gets it right with tracks "Hard Times" and "In Walked J.C." But there is a little too much meandering and not enough togetherness on the album. It left me wondering if perhaps SaxAMBLE would have been a better name for the group. The feel of "War of the Worlds" is catchy, due to the impressive lower registers, where lies the strength of the group. The rest of the parts - releasing way too many squeals - just don't seem to fit together, and it is not the producer's fault. I would like to have heard at least one track without the drums (which remain solid), and also for the group to take a few hints from other six-part arrangements such as vocal group Take 6, where the chord possibilities are immense. For buyers looking to be introduced to saxophone ensembles, I'd recommend instead the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet."