Shot X Shot

Shot X Shot
High Two HT007

All music needs the renewal that comes with the introduction of new, often young, voices, not the least jazz and improvised sounds. But praising tyro players merely for being youthful is the self-defeating trope that was discredited by the fumblings of so-called Young Lions of the 1990s.

Philadelphia’s Shot X Shot quartet is miles away from the slavish hard-bop recreations of those neo-cons, leaning as it does towards post-Ornette Coleman Free Jazz and minimalist Free Music. Also, while much is made in the booklet notes of all four being under 26 years old, not one is a legitimate improv whiz kid the way saxophonist Jackie McLean and drummer Tony Williams were in their time. Those two would be a hard act to follow for anyone, and suffice it to say that Shot X Shot acquits itself competently, but not spectacularly on this freshmen effort.

Shot X Shot is built on the contrapuntal patterning of two saxophones – Dan Scofield on alto and Bryan Rogers on tenor – plus the rhythmic thrust of bassist Matt Engle and drummer Dan Capecchi. Associates at Philly’s University of the Arts, Scofield and Rogers are both members of saxophonist Bobby Zankel’s Warriors of the Wonderful Sound and the Sonic Liberation Front, the second of which also employs Engle.

Despite the World Music and Free Jazz leanings of those bands, the five originals here suggest both the note-abbreviated patterning of European improvisers as well as the translucent partnership of earlier alto and tenor teams like Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz. But this is 2006 after all, and technology allows the quartet to showcase at times overlong improvisations, the briefest of which, “Two Improvisations”, is a touch over 10 minutes.

Actually the four fare better on that prosaically titled track than on some of the lengthier ones which seem to meander at low intensity. With sax lines that either dovetail into one another or skitter back and forth in allegro pantonality, the two reedists here make a distinctive statement. Moody split tones soon swell to pressured snorts and growls as Engle’s string resonation and Capecchi’s lively paradiddles take as large a part in shaping the tune as the traditional frontline.

Four-sided interaction takes place at any tempo and at any volume, with compositions such as Scofield’s “Volzalisle” showing the band’s reductionist side. As the piece develops, the flutter-tongued reverberations of the reeds gradually coalesce, while the drummer’s wire brushes barely graze the cymbals. Contracting his stick movements to nerve beat concussions, Capecchi constructs a backdrop for the saxophonists to extend their contrapuntal lines with tongue-stopping arpeggios, allowing textures to massively expand and vibrate.

While skittering drums, modulating bass lines and keening dual saxophone tones characterize the longer tracks, skewered and unfocused reed work doesn’t make enough of an impression most of the time. Contrapuntal or polyphonic, it appears that the two reedists need one other to tally up to distinctive tones. These aren’t saxophone battles, but more like what would happen if Siamese twins both play horns.

With this CD Shot X Shot deserves accolades for out-of-the-ordinary arrangements. But conversely, solo strength, especially from the saxophonists, demands more vision and more individuality. Filled with promise, the session suggests that something better may appear next time out.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Bee Assassins 2. One Point Three Full Breaths 3. Two Improvisations 4. Volzalisle 5. Chains of Agree

Personnel: Dan Scofield (alto saxophone); Bryan Rogers (tenor saxophone); Matt Engle (bass); Dan Capecchi (drums)