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Dec 15, 2017







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Gareth Sager, 88 Tuned Dreams (Freaks R Us Records)

It was always obvious that this Scottish art-rock guitarist/pianist had a lot of training, what with the razor-edge runs his keyboard added to the material his old band, Rip Rig + Panic, presented on albums like 1981’s God, which sounded like early Wire but with more bonking madness. Like the other musician we’re covering on this page, Sager has had little problem remaining relatively unrecognized for his earlier work with the aforementioned Panic, not to mention The Pop Group, but in Sager’s case the goal has traditionally been about making discombobulated, punkish statements with a vigorous nod to Captain Beefheart. But the guy’s 56 now, and maybe thinking about all the soundtrack offers he’s turned down over the years, if that even happened, but I’d be surprised if it hadn’t; he’s genuinely admired by Nick Cave for one. These 14 tracks are no more unnerving than what you’d imagine a solo piano would have done for a movie like Cold Mountain — the scale work and arpeggios glisten with intent, affection and, OK, a little bizarreness, but steeping yourself in it really does feel like finding a rare gem that only you’ll know about. A+ — Eric W. Saeger




Sam Newsome and Jean-Micel Pilc, Magic Circle (self-released)
CD Reviews: October 26, 2017

10/26/17
By Eric Saeger news@hippopress.com



Sam Newsome and Jean-Micel Pilc, Magic Circle (self-released)

This is a departure for soprano sax-player Newsome, a New York jazz player who’s released five CDs of solo material, and yes, that means just him and his sax noodling around. That approach has left him pinned as a relatively obscure curiosity to the buying public, if not the small army of soprano sax artists he’s reached out to through his blog and so on – his life mission centers on exploring his instrument, which resembles a giant flutophone, not the iconic curved contours of the tenor sax, the weapon of choice for your Coltranes and Rollinses. But yes, as I said, a departure, as this time he’s recorded with a partner, French pianist Jean-Micel Pilc, whose formidable list of grants includes a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The music itself consists of one-take “conversations” between the two with, believe it or not, an emphasis on minimalism, specifically in the form of standards which, they acknowledge, have been “done to death.” Here, Ellington, Monk and Coltrane get their scripts flipped in what can sometimes come off like beatnik noise (the tail end of “Autumn Leaves”), but with their deep feeling for the songs these are, yes, intelligent conversations. A- — Eric W. Saeger





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