Colin Stetson: New History Warfare – Judges, Vol. 2 (Constellation)
Montréal-based saxophonist Colin Stetson’s 2nd album of pieces for Constellation is a knock-out. I’ve had it in my library since the beginning of the year and it’s been hovering toward the top of my best of the year list since, though admittedly it’s not something I sit down to daily. Stetson is truly a master of his axe (sax) and created these pieces for sax and/or horn in a single take with no overdubs or looping. That alone is a marvel, and the fact that it sounds so damn good is even better. Often times Stetson’s technique is furious, warbling with a tremolo effect that’s busy and intense; “From No Part of Me Could I Summon a Voice” is such a case, where the piece flutters around the high-end of the sax with a scribbling quality, all rapid-fire mark making. Laurie Anderson lends her spoken vocals to “A Dream of Water,” lending additional context to another rapidly oscillating sax piece. Elsewhere Shana Worden (My Brightest Diamond) sings the blues over a sea of sax drones on ‘Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes" to great effect. Normally I’m not a big fan of vocalists interrupting an instrumentalist’s creative flow, but both Anderson and Worden provide really immediately human qualities (even Anderson’s spoken bit) to what can seem surprisingly like mechanical music. Stetson is spectacular to listen to — his abilities in arrangement and technique are confounding and fascinating. Truly impressive and original stuff.