Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest, Pop
Scott Robinson's tour-de-force, performing on clarinet, bass clarinet, C-melody, alto, tenor, baritone, soprano and bass saxophones and the rare contrabass saxophones theremin and contrabass sarrusophone, together with bro... more »
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Scott Robinson's tour-de-force, performing on clarinet, bass clarinet, C-melody, alto, tenor, baritone, soprano and bass saxophones and the rare contrabass saxophones theremin and contrabass sarrusophone, together with brother David Robinson, Dan Barrett, Bucky Pizzarelli, Richard Wyands, Mark Shane, Pat O'Leary and Klaus Suonsaari.
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Big? You bet. And some hand-waving required, too.
Bob Zeidler | Charlton, MA United States | 03/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A confession: I purchased this Scott Robinson CD for "all the wrong reasons," only to find out that it contains some really terrific jazz by one of the most talented and versatile reed players around. And that the music alone - separate and aside from the instruments that Robinson plays - is reason enough for a jazz fan to have this album.
Music played on obsolete, or at least obscure, instruments - has interested me for many years, going back to the time when I first heard Renaissance music played on authentic instruments. But my true "instrumental arcana mania" can probably be dated from a more recent time, when I first heard a duet for contrabass sarrusophones on Paul Winter's "Callings" album. And this Scott Robinson album is one of the best of several "finds" of music for this instrument. (Other finds included albums by Sidney Bechet and Frank Zappa, and, on the classical side, a Symphony in B minor, subtitled "Polonia Symphony," by Ignace Jan Paderewski. So it's not like this early double-reed competitor to the saxophone has been relegated to total obscurity.)
Scott Robinson, for those who need some introduction, is primarily known as a reed man in the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, where, in addition to playing all of the usual saxes and clarinets, he also doubles (triples?) on flutes, and even has a track (on Maria's "Coming About" album) where he "quadruples" on theremin. Here, he's got his own small combo that includes, among others, Dan Barrett on trombone and Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar. A good small group that covers a lot of jazz territory (both big band and combo): Plenty of Ellington and Armstrong, a Sidney Bechet classic, and a few pop tunes (equally well-done) thrown in for good measure.
An early (if not the first) appearance of the sarrusophone in a jazz group was in the 1924 recording of "Mandy, Make Up Your Mind" by the Clarence Williams Blue Five, a group that was famous for having Louis Armstrong in it. But the song featured not Satchmo but Sidney Bechet, on soprano sax and sarrusophone. (Fortunately for posterity, this track has been included on the Sidney Bechet disc in the Ken Burns Jazz series.) On "Thinking Big," Scott Robinson travels down this memory lane, on - again - soprano sax, and contrabass (not soprano) sarrusophone. Nice tribute to Bechet; good licks on a totally unexpected instrument.
Pierre Auguste Sarrus, the inventor whose name "graces" the instrument, could probably be considered a genius if the size of his instrument is compared to the contrabass equivalent invented by Adolphe Sax. The contrabass sax - used to good effect on a few tracks of "Thinking Big" - is a behemoth by comparison, standing a full foot taller than Robinson. (The contrabass sarrusophone is barely larger than a conventional bassoon, and measurably smaller than a contrabassoon.) Think of "Harry Carney on steroids" to get an idea of the depths which this monstrosity can plumb. The instrument is used to good - if somewhat humorous - fashion on two Ellington tunes, "Ko-Ko" and "Basso Profundo."
Robinson makes some of his best music on the smaller bass saxophone (deeper than a baritone sax, but not buried in the basement, as the contrabass monster tends to be). It's actually a "beauty for ballads" such as "Sleepy Time Gal" and "It's Magic" (one of the best tracks on the album). And he does equally well on every other saxophone known to man, and most clarinets as well.
The brief description above also suggests that there's something else afoot, or, more accurately, ahand. Two other Ellington tunes ("Mood Indigo" and "On a Turquoise Cloud") have Robinson "waving his hands" over the theremin (an early "electronic" instrument whose pitch and volume are determined by the placement of the player's hands relative to two antennas on the device). Normally considered an "eerie" sound, its timbre fits "Mood Indigo" perfectly.
If it seems as if I'm writing these comments about nothing more than a "stupid pet trick of an album," rest assured that all of the music is great. It swings - and swings hard - when it needs to, and on the ballads Robinson seems to have made - if you'll excuse the expression - some eerily correct choices of instrument.
Totally enjoyable, instrumental arcana or not. And the photos in the nicely documented booklet are a hoot, too.
Contrabass saxophone & Theramin . . . on the same album!
Bob Zeidler | 06/12/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The true test of this album is this: Scott Robinson could have turned the whole thing into a circus act. The instruments he used are to say the least unusual--bass and contrabass saxes, Theramin, C Melody saxophone--and the whole thing could have degraded into a series of novelty numbers. Scott Robinson is too much the artist to let that happen, though. His commitment to swinging, melodic playing is evident throughout this album. The future of jazz music may rest on players who can straddle genres as effortlessly as Robinson. Of all the CDs I've bought in the last 6 months, THIS one's ALWAYS in my CD changer. You won't regret it!"
Multitimbral Eclectic Virtuosity -- HOW SWEET IT IS!!
Bob Zeidler | 01/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the CD that you retro-swingers REALLY need to listen to. And when Scott plays those soulful melodies, ooohh -- you'd better get your hankie out 'cause they'll pull at your heart, guaranteed! Just listen to the final cut first, "Moonlight and Roses", and you will wish you had known about Scott Robinson's music long before now. And watch out, you'll want more after listening to this one!"