I have, in my life, had a complicated relationship with saxophones. In music I mean, this isn’t some strange sex thing. Thing is, I never liked ’em. Saxophones. All that noodling jazz nonsense; never liked em. Then I heard the band Morphine.
Morphine were a three piece band incorporating drums (Jerome Deupree then Billy Conway), Mark Sandman (a vocalist who played two-string slide bass which made the most i n c r e d i b l e sound) and sax player Dana Colley. At first I balked, but their stuff is just so darkly seductive (without ever being gothic or overwrought) that it drew me in. When we saw them live, Dana Colley played TWO saxophones simultaneously. Amazing band, very much recommended.
So I could no longer say I disliked all sax, It’s never nice to let go of a dislike, is it? But at least I could say I hated all sax EXCEPT Morphine. Couldn’t I? Well then it dawned on me, fucking idiot that I am, that a great deal of David Lynch / Angelo Badalamenti soundtracks that I love contain sax and are… horror of horrors… JAZZ.
For a man who loves his niggles and bugbears, this really was very unfair. But that was it, I was sure. Lynch soundtracks and Morphine and that was it. Done. No more sax allowed. No sax please we’re British etc.
The I heard the work of Colin Stetson. D A M N I T . Stetson has appeared on releases by such luminaries as Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but his solo material is of a whole other breed. It is, I cannot really deny, avant garde jazz. Yes, I know. The reaction you very likely have to that term, that you had right then when you read it, was always my reaction, as it is the reaction of all right thinking people everywhere.
HOWEVER, the sound that comes out of Mr. Stetson’s saxophone is like no saxophone I’d ever heard and like none I’ve heard since. Apparently, he uses circular breathing and unusual mic placement to achieve this and does not go in for “loopers or pre-recorded tracks or post-production funny business.” Often you can hear his breaths, can hear the machinery of the instrument. Very often it doesn’t even sound like a sax, very often it sounds like a sound that could not be made by a human, with or without instrumentation. It sounds by turns frightening, plaintive, abrasive and beautiful. The Records that make up his New History Warfare trilogy are unlike any records I’d ever heard, and were almost instantly engrossing, moving and addictive. Yeah, right, this from me, the sax-o-phobe.
So I spose all I can really say is that I dislike the jazz… that i dislike. Brilliant, Benjamin, brilliant, you’re a fuckin’ genius.