By Philip Freeman | Published February 2022
Jaleel Shaw follows his own path. He’s possessed of extraordinary technical skill, a master of his instrument; he unspools long post-bebop lines without blinking (or pausing for breath — at least that’s how it seems on some tracks) and journeys into avant-garde zones with clear-eyed self-possession.
“Tulsa” is a fierce soprano saxophone exercise reminiscent of Roscoe Mitchell’s work in the way its intense lines explore a wide dynamic range and build to piercing squeals, but there’s a lyrical beauty there as well that recalls Wayne Shorter.
“Improvisation For Mom” lacks the tenderness its title leads one to expect. It feels more like a scalar exercise. But maybe that’s the perfect tribute to a woman who raised a saxophonist; one can imagine Shaw’s mother saying, “Very good, dear. Now wash your hands for dinner” when he’s finished.
On two tracks, “Breonna” and the closing “Isolation,” Shaw adds electronics to the mix. The former piece is a gentle elegy with subtle, dubby reverb, but the latter is a real journey.
His alto is fed through pedals and effects, warping and echoing it back on itself until it sounds like a harmonica, or someone singing softly into a pipe.
When the delay gets long enough and a looped passage is played against a second line, the illusion that there are two saxophonists playing in close harmony is created. By the piece’s final minutes, the sound seems to be unraveling into psychedelic tendrils, no longer identifiable as a saxophone at all. It’s quite an experience.
Echoes: Lee; Breonna; Tulsa; Improvisation For Mom; Temesgen; On Being Invisible; DOOM; Silence; Isolation. (31:55)
Personnel: Jaleel Shaw, alto and soprano saxophones.
Ordering Info: jaleelshaw.com