Edith Steyer

July 1, 2020

Hoax and add-ons

Creative Sources CS 574 CD

Patrick Shiroishi

Eye for an Eye

Armageddon AN-R-8

Kārlis Auziņš

Oneness and the Transcendent Truth

Gotta Let It Out GLIO 43 CD

Travis LaPlante


New Amsterdam No #

Don Malfon

On Resonance

Sirulita Records SR 2001

Perception rather than poverty is what draws many musicians to record a solo session. Considering the uncertainties involved though, these players usually specialize in improvised sounds. Additionally, building on years of reed experimentation, saxophonists are most prone to taking the solo risk. Using differently pitched instruments, five saxophonists from four countries probe various reed parameters here. What unites them is that each advances unique methods to propel his or her sonic investigations.

Adjusting his skills to the little-used sopranino saxophone, Los Angeles-based Patrick Shiroishi, who has recorded with likes of Alex Cline and Vinny Golia, creates a single track improvisation on Eye for an Eye which moves from silence to shrill and back again. Constrained only by the limitations of breath and timbres to create his narrative, Shiroishi cannily uses both concepts to best advantage. Wriggling his way from dissonant pitches to pinched cries and snarled yelping at the beginning, Shiroishi soon turns to flutter tonguing and sharp breath intakes to create staccato surges and accented echoes with a piping recorder-like air that build up to and away from protracted silences. By mid point he introduces multiphonics, propelled with near-bagpipe tremolo power, with drawn out drones and squeals suggesting they come from two separate reeds playing in tandem. At the same time his adroit circular breathing deftly draws even higher pitches from the horn in a way that seems to be eviscerating the instrument’s mechanical innards. After triple-tongued sweeps vibrate at even more elevated pitches without losing sight of chromatic motion, the track climaxes as it moves downwards. The ending consists of an impressive series of squeaks and whistles, completed by a single passionate shrill.

Expanding the reed palate with preparations, German alto saxophonist/clarinetist Edith Steyer, who has played with the likes of Jean-Marc Foussat and Michael Griener among many others, still doesn’t overuse the additions throughout the CD’s 14 selections. However certain tracks are dedicated to expressive experimentation. “Swarms” for example, alternates among buzzing Bronx cheers, dog-whistle-like shrills and low-pitched cuckoo-clock-like resonations. “Announcement” is even more strident with ear-splitting reed variations rubbing against further low-pitches; and “Ebony and Raspberry” highlighting spetrofluctuation alongside narrowing timbres and double-tonguing. Yet even as atonal a narrative as “The Cyclist” includes a mellow exposition alongside trills wrenched from the body tube and key percussion. Similarly the key percussion that ends “Diesels Complaint (Before Its Driving Ban” and the tongue slaps that begin it may aim towards dissonance, but even as Steyer squeals up and down the scale a moderato narrative can be heard as well. Other tracks encompass tonal patterns and melodies as well. For instance the chalumeau echoes emanating from her clarinet on “Under a Skin” may be sharp, but the woody tones finally revealed include a warm, jocular theme as they unroll.

Relating experimentation and compositional ideas to interlock with thematic suggestions is Latvian tenor saxophonist Kārlis Auziņš, whose eight selections on Oneness and the Transcendent Truth use an expanded sonic vocabulary to reach both nouns in his CD title. Someone who has studied in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, the most fruitful instances of experimentation are “Celestial Space” and “Radītājs.Rašanās.Radījums”, The first sound as if signal processing has created electronic impulses that layer more than one reed line at a time, with the compressed result filled with pressurized theme variations. Eventually narrow echoes become so microtonal and ethereal that the final section’s shrill textures and percussion echoing low tones contrast sharply then finally meld. “Radītājs.Rašanās.Radījums” on the other hand features expressive reed tones that sweep across the narrative like processed wave forms, as tongue slaps challenge them. By the finale darker textures predominate as key percussion takes on bongo-drum-like tones until the concentrated theme vibrates outwards. The disc is even daring in its first track. As distant whistles and tongue slaps concentrate into darker low pitches on “Pirmsākumi”, first a second and then a third parallel reed line is heard in triple counterpoint. Pushing aside a rhythmic undertow that sounds like bouncing tennis balls, sweet flute-like undulations are also heard, succeeded by the chirps and twitters of real birds that move to the foreground once the saxophonist stops playing.

Although tenor saxophonist Travis LaPlante recorded Human in his former mountainside home in rural Vermont, no nature sounds intrude. Still this exercise in solo playing has pastoral qualities that could be associated with the birds, trees and wind that affect his improvisational thought processes. Yet LaPlante, who was part of the Battle Trance saxophone quartet, turns to emphatic broken chord inflections and tongue-slapping shadings as early as “Hearing back through the mist”, the first track. Able to jerk his timbres upwards to bugle-like vibrations, he then works his way southwards with a coda of key percussion and strained breaths. This rustic-revolutionary dichotomy pokes through all 10 selections with concentrated blowing without breath pauses featured as well as expressively delicate barely-there air affiliations. At points as on “Song for the invisible”, LaPlante’s forceful trilling extracts split tone from deep inside his horns body tube. While “The Love inside the wind” begins with such ethereal peeps that they could come from a recorder, that is until increased overtones toughen the narrative to includes spurting multiphonics. Crucially the extended and final title track reflects this. Beginning with high-pitched, delicately hiccupping timbres, a repetitive pattern propelled by circular breathing finally reorients the narrative from brief trills to intermittent smears separated by pauses until a gradual moderating of the tone climaxes in silence.

Moving downwards in pitch, Catalan saxophonist Don Malfon brings the same adventurous spirit to the baritone with On Resonance’s eight selections. With his choice of sequentially numbered titles, Malfon, who has played with Agustí Fernández and Tom Chant among others, confirms the disc’s experimental nature. Parts of the tracks fasten onto the larger horn’s traditional sound with burbles projected from deep past the saxophone’s s-curve and echoed back with tones from the nether regions. Yet he also exposes intonations from all parts of the instrument’s sound spectrum. “Resonance No.1”, for instance begins with double-tongued split tones not only in the altissimo mode but reflecting metallic echoes. In contrast “Resonance No.6” intensifies from buzz-saw-like droning to have that line coupled with a contrapuntal secondary hiss that propelled the output to jackhammer-like power. Admirably both can be clearly heard by the finale. Even “Resonance No.8” includes hardened tongue snarls that expand with whinnying power as the piece unrolls. Crucially though these shrill pseudo animal cries and bottom feeding growls come together as part of his cornucopia-wide blowing at the ending of the CD and the session.

Each saxophone speculator uses skills and smarts to expand individual horn’s range while ferreting out unexpected timbres through sweat and strategies. All sessions should interest reed fanciers as well as others.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Eye: 1. Eye for an Eye

Personnel: Eye: Patrick Shiroishi (sopranino saxophone)

Track Listing: Hoax: 1. Pastoral 2. Ebony and Raspberry 3. Under a Skin 4. In Between 5. Diesels Complaint (Before Its Driving Ban) 6. Staggering Times 7. She’s in the Box 8. Clarinet Biotope 9. Swarms 10. Currents 11. Announcement 12. Airy Holes 13. The Cyclist 14. Wolpertingers Call

Personnel: Hoax: Edith Steyer (alto saxophone, clarinet and preparations)

Track Listing: Oneness: 1. Pirmsākumi 2. The Call 3. Progress 4. Korālis II 5.Celestial Space 6. Radītājs.Rašanās.Radījums 7. The Transcendent Truth 8. Reflection

Personnel: Oneness: Kārlis Auziņš (tenor saxophone)

Track Listing: Human: 1. Hearing back through the mist 2. The Earth cries 3. Gentle 4. Breaking 5. The Love inside the wind 6. Spring 7. Song for the invisible 8. Fanfare for the Queen 9. Birds 10. Human

Personnel: Human: Travis Laplante (tenor saxophone)

Track Listing: Resonance: 1. Resonance No.1 2. Resonance No.2 3. Resonance No.3 4. Resonance No.4 5. Resonance No.5 6 .Resonance No.6 7. Resonance No.7 8. Resonance No.8

Personnel: Resonance: Don Malfon (baritone saxophone)