Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Howl James Romain Innova 2012

Unlike my contemporaries at some other on line publications that seem to have little in terms of standards and will pony up three reviews on the same title and recently reviewed The Who, Bob Seger and David Bowie while I'm still trying to make the connection to jazz. I will be honest and say I did experiment with expanding more into the blues with Tab Benoit which paid off well and experimented with The Fray and Switch foot which was a disaster. While my choices are at least slightly more commercially viable acts today, it just did not fit any better on my site then I believe Bowie has worked on theirs.

There is plenty of incredible music being made that no one should attempt to try and hustle readership appealing to a commercial market whose primary interest revolves around the flavor of the month.

Enter Howl from James Romain...and his friends.

One of the more creative releases of the year while walking a genre tightrope of jazz, modern classical with a intriguing touch of ambient digital sound manipulation for your listening pleasure. The primary instrument being the saxophone and those in the know do understand that classical saxophone literature of note is as rare as Obama without a teleprompter. There is a lyrical sense of purpose while maintaining a more abstract minimalist presentation. It sounds unbelievably cool...A modern fusion of genres that are somehow diametrically opposed for the theory geeks yet there is an unmistakable harmonic cohesion that seems to flow throughout this release. Innova is a label and one of the very few on the cutting edge of tomorrows sound released today. While musical frames of reference can be a matter of subjective taste there is a reference point that can be made for the uninitiated to at least attempt to grasp the potential that lies within. A slightly more electronic than normal ECM vibe is the yin to the more free form yang of the presentation. Self indulgent? No. Pretentious? No. A sound scape that has but the single requirement for your undivided attention. Listen. Allow each tune to attack your senses be it visceral or cerebral and then see where the journey takes you. "Saxmax" was composed for either alto or soprano saxophone and computer. Normally I would consider the digital manipulation of sound as an electronic crutch for the producer to hide sub par talent behind or "under" but in the hands of those that are true experts in their field we then achieve a textural balance of harmonic synergy. "Secondary Impressions III" has a spatial yet oddly cinematic scope to a mysterious ambient and abstract presentation. Again, harmonic and lyrical cohesion with an incredibly organic root. "James Romain Energy Drink" is just that...A free form master class in letting go. Reminiscent of Ivo Perelman but slightly more accessible to those that do not play saxophone and grasp the incredibly technically proficient way Romain not just plays but attacks his instrument.

Romain approached his Drake colleague Bill Dougherty about composing a work that would reflect on and connect with poet Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. The end result is a dramatic and incredibly effective piece and one of the most innovative works to go into the saxophone literature in some time. Romain has now established himself as a formidable force. The layers of deceptively subtle nuances provided with the help of Nicolas Roth on piano and Mark Engebretson are vitally important in forging a new sound for a new generation. 

A stunning work that sneaks up on you when you least expect it.

5 Stars!

2.Horn Sonata: I. Adagio: Moderato03:51
3.Horn Sonata: II. Larghetto06:21
4.Horn Sonata: III. Allegro05:08
6.Secondary Impressions: I. Cyclotronic Multi-faceted Spheroidal Reverberation05:21
7.Secondary Impressions: II. Invertible Introspection04:49
8.Secondary Impressions: III. Serenade (Under Glass)08:40
9.Secondary Impressions: IV. Le compositeur englouti03:56
10.Energy Drink

Howl is: James Romain, saxophone
Nicholas Roth, piano
Mark Engebretson, computer performer