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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Cacophony FMC 514

Cacophony FMC 514

1. Air Mail Special

2. Down By the Riverside

3. My One and Only Love

4. Working Day and Night

6. Java

7. Caravan

8. Shortening Bread

9. Bluesalicious!

10. Creole Love Song

11. Work Song

12. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

13. That's A-Plenty


Frank Macchia - Tenor sax, baritone sax, flute, alto flute, clarinet, contrabass clarinet
Eric Marienthal - Alto sax, soprano sax, flute
Sal Lozano - Alto sax, piccolo, clarinet
Bob Sheppard - Tenor sax, clarinet, flute
Gene Cipriano - Baritone sax, clarinet, flute
Jay Mason - Bass sax, bass clarinet
Peter Erskine - Drums, percussion

There are quite a few saxophone quartets around, but I can't remember ever encountering a saxophone sextet before. Frank Macchia had the idea for such a group as long ago as 1990, when he wrote some arrangements for six saxophones and drums, even making some demo discs by overdubbing each sax part himself. He recently dug out this material and used seven of the pieces for this CD, adding five new arrangements.

You might think that such a line-up has inbuilt limitations, but you hardly notice them here. This is partly because of the multiplicity of woodwind instruments played by the six saxists, but also because of the way that former Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine provides a solid base. He is a rhythm section in himself. Mostly he uses a sort of New Orleans marching band style, concentrating on the snare drum and bass drum, which fills in the background more than adequately. The rest of the band even help by adding handclaps to Down by the Riverside. And Working Day and Night (a Michael Jackson song) is introduced by one member of the group supplying rhythmic vocal noises.

Frank Macchia's arrangements make good use of the numerous talents and sounds of his virtuosic companions - not forgetting his own contributions on six different instruments. The variety is exemplified by the eighth-bar canonic blues in the middle of Air Mail Special, the sparring between two trios in Java (piccolo, clarinet and soprano sax versus two baritones and a bass sax), and the six-part counterpoint in Bluesalicious! But every number is given a different feel, ensuring that the album never sounds samey or routine.

It is difficult to pick out highlights from such a consistently rewarding album, but they include Gene Cipriano's lyrical baritone sax in My One and Only Love; Eric Marienthal soloing over massed clarinets in Creole Love Song (I don't know why Duke Ellington's Creole Love Call is given this title); Work Song underpinned by sturdy baritone sax and featuring a fine drum solo from Peter Erskine; and Frank Macchia's own soaring unaccompanied introduction to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

When I received this CD, I thought I was unlikely to enjoy an accumulation of so many saxes, clarinets and flutes - but Frank Macchia (with considerable help from his colleagues) proved me wrong. This is one album I shall keep.

Tony Augarde





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