The big, luscious and bronzy tone of David Larsen’s baritone saxophone seems made for this repertoire. Although slow and ballad-like, his performance of it is never wanting in swing. In fact, in a forthright, albeit gentle way, the pendulous rhythm propels this music so that you can dance to it, which is what stellar performances are all about.
Mr Larsen is one of a small tribe of excellent musicians who do yeoman work holding up the proverbial bottom end of the spectrum of woodwinds that grace swinging music. What makes this performance all the more compelling is the presence of Danny McCollim on keyboards. When he plays Fender Rhodes, the music soars as his radiant notes bounce and leap off Mr Larsen’s melodically bellowing baritone. Magically the pianist is also able to shimmer with a similar kind of radiance even when he is playing the concert grant. It takes consummate skill to be able to strike the keys and combine that with pedaling that evokes a more coppery, metallic tone – which the pianist does on “Another Porter Please”.
The baritone saxophonist commands this recording with his basically gentle sonority that nevertheless conveys power and definition as well as a wonderfully muted quality in the softer passages of “Angel Eyes” and “In Your Own Sweet Way”. Remember that the original of the latter song featured Paul Desmond on alto saxophone – this interpretation [on the baritone horn] makes quite a leap; a wonderful one at that. More slow and meditative music continues on the album repertoire, but Mr Larsen makes it all pulsate with swing.
The baritone saxophonist’s sensitivity and stylistic surety is manipulated skillfully in order to make the full range of the instrument’s timbral distinctions to hit home, for example, in the luscious melody of “Latin Silver” – with its effect seemingly mimicking the semi-sustained pedal effects of the piano, while maintaining the husky “vocalastics’ of the baritone horn.. “Autumn Leaves” is a classic and the performances of Mr Larsen as well as Mr McCollim make sure of that.
Make no mistake, though, the bassist Josh Skinner’s glorious tone and articulation, leaping harmonics and solid rhythm, and drummer Brendan McMurphy’s melodious rattle and humming drums and hissing cymbals are also sweetly and surely in tune with Mr Larsen’s artistry. An altogether superb album both in the choice of repertoire and the performance.
Tracks – 1: Angel Eyes; 2: Another Porter Please; 3: In Your Own Sweet Way; 4: Latin Silver; 5: Autumn Leaves; 6: Bright Days; 7: Come Rain or Come Shine; 8: Through and Through
Musicians – David Larsen: baritone saxophone and composer; Danny McCollim: keyboards; Josh Skinner: bass; Brendan McMurphy: drums
Released – 2022
Label – G2 Records
Runtime – 44:23