Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Thu, 29 Aug 2002 09:40:47 -0400

Well it's not an OKOM review, but still can't resist posting it just in
case any reviewers out there want to borrow a few phrases from it
someday. ;-)


August 29, 2002 - New York Times

Deep-Voiced Saxophones With a Variety of Styles


      Four baritone saxophones played together can sound like organ
chords filling a church, and occasionally as played on Tuesday night by
Hamiet Bluiett and his three colleagues in Baritone Nation, they did.
But they can also sound like a riot in a cow barn, or marine life, or
ragged, distorted electric guitars.

The bread and butter of this remarkable band  which is rounded out
through Sunday at Iridium, 1650 Broadway, at 51st Street, by Kahil
El'Zabar on drums and percussion  is the rhythm-and-blues riff tune.
Mr. Bluiett and company  James Carter, Patience Higgins and Howard
Johnson  paved songs with cropped riffs, piling counterlines on top of
one another; the various saxophonists took solos that rose above the
great, wild noise.

Mr. Carter thought in quick, impulsive, octave-leaping ideas, making his
reed pop like a shotgun blast; Mr. Higgins played more elegantly,
patiently exploring separate areas of the horn.

There were rarely bridge sections; these tunes repeated themselves over
and over, and yes, that was the point. This music wasn't unlike
Mississippi hill-country blues in its simplicity and power, and with Mr.
El'Zabar's simple, loose, loud drumming, it could be connected to the
experience of listening to rock bands like the White Stripes. It was
rude, fresh and overwhelming, the kind of thing that's in short supply
even in jazz's avant-garde.

There were a few pieces of a different sort as well. One weird, slow,
contrapuntally arranged number sounded like an Ellington ballad played
in retrograde; it was ugly but fascinating. For another, "Down Under,"
the horn players switched to bass clarinets (with Mr. Bluiett playing a
larger contra alto clarinet and Mr. Carter playing a huge contrabass

This tune had no melodic riff to pin itself on. Rhythm alone drove it,
and the players experimented with texture. Mr. Carter, who always
gravitates to extreme reaches of his instrument, was right at home: he
dove to the bottom, making the lowest clarinetlike sounds imaginable, so
low that they seemed less like musical pitches than a giant tree
groaning before it falls.