Jason Sharp

A Boat Upon Its Blood
Constellation Records CST 1119

By Ken Waxman

No gimmick, A Boat Upon Its Blood could be termed a medical as well as a musical advance, since Montreal-based bass saxophonist Jason Sharp uses amplified heart beats and breaths to trigger a wave-form pulse. Like the plasma dripping out of the blood bag during a procedure, this signal-processed continuum is incorporated with synthesizer amplifications alongside acoustic textures from Sharp, violinist Joshua Zubot and pedal steel guitarist Joe Grass for an operation that’s fascinating as well as worthwhile. Swirling, irregular strings plus the sound of the healthy human heart’s orderly progression reach a congruent crescendo on “Pt. 2” of the title tune, later climaxing on “Boat Upon Its Blood Pt. 3” as invasive reed gusts bring distinctive balm to suture any remaining gashes left by the tonal surgery.

Unconventional, but cohered harmonies characterize all the CD’s tunes, inspired by Black Mountain poet Robert Creeley’s collection The Heart, with concentrated motor-driven timbres, sandpaper-like rubs and screaming reed explosions creating constant surprises, but ones which reflect the unique half-antiseptic and half-amorous program. These implicit tonal contradictions tersely blend with a lessening of polyphonic stresses on the concluding “Still I Sit with You Inside Me Pt. 2”, as string plucks and thumps are as prominent as undulations on a heart monitor. Before that, on “Still I Sit with You Inside Me Pt. 1”, textures as distinct as infant-yelping resembling saxophone squawks and concentrated pipe-organ-like-processed reverberations are stacked as solidly as medical equipment in a supply cupboard. Even the occasional reed growl or drum machine pressure doesn’t detract from the therapeutic nature of the performance.

-For The Whole Note February 2017