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Breathe if You Can

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Album Review

From John Coltrane and Rashied Ali's Interstellar Space LP to the Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano duo, sax-and-drums duets have become equated with fire music. It is not a particularly frequent lineup, but it always seems to pack a punch. A case in point is Heath Watts and Dan Pell's Breathe If You Can, their first release for the venerable avant jazz label Leo Records. Watts and Pell don't have the unrelenting urgency of Flaherty and Corsano, but their music has a lot of grit and gusto. On soprano saxophone, Watts combines the sweet quirkiness of a Steve Lacy with the rasp of John Butcher and the fire of Albert Ayler. Drummer Pell has the quickness of a Paul Lytton (or a Rashied Ali), but the heavy touch of a rock drummer. Breathe If You Can offers nine improvised tracks ranging in length from three to 12 minutes. The first piece, "Letters," is also the longest. It goes through several moods and serves as an illustration of what Watts calls "non-objective dynamically ordered tones" — in other words: abstract improvisation on the fly. Non-objective as it may be, this music remains resolutely jazz, however free or fire-powered, something attested to by tracks like "People," "However," and "Love," the latter being the closest this duo gets to a bona fide ballad. Themes are being developed and some of these pieces might be underpinned by compositional canvases. This album does not reinvent the wheel, but it offers a daring, demanding listen that fans of high-octane free jazz will definitely appreciate. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Breathe if You Can, Dan Pell
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  • $11.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: Nov 17, 2008

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