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The Week's Can't-Miss Performance 

The Brooklyn Sax Quartet unleashes a dense matrix of polyrhythms and buttery tones

Wednesday, Jan 23 2002
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Though the Brooklyn Sax Quartet is touring the West Coast to support its first CD, The Way of the Saxophone, it would be misleading to hail this as the group's debut. Tenorist David Bindman and altoist Sam Furnace have worked with baritone saxophonist Fred Ho since the mid-'90s, and now form the heart of Ho's Afro-Asian Music Ensemble. Joined by soprano saxophonist Chris Jonas, the Quartet offers butter-rich tones and a penchant for polyrhythms that suggest a compositional ethic stewed over years of practice, steeped in the sounds of the Brooklyn streets.

While the group's players hail from all over the avant-garde map, the BSQ often revisits the classics. Tackling titles that have been seemingly interpreted to death, such as Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," Bindman arranges them with a freshness that's restorative. In the world after Ken Burns' Jazz, it's no longer necessary to state familiar themes, so the quartet intimates them with a few notes here or a tone there, until one of the soloists swings open the floodgates with a watershed of feeling. Never playing the melody straight through, the quartet expands upon the original sources, distilling the familiar into moments of great emotional power.

With music that takes its shape from the interweaving of its players, it makes little sense to single out an individual musician. But whether slap-tonguing his reed to lend percussive pop to the Ghanaian-derived "Gadzo" or stretching the baritone to deliriously trebly heights on "Hipster Harvey," Ho often unleashes the dense matrix of rhythms that powers the songs. Fusing a deep intellectual approach with a warmth for the lush, golden sounds of jazz, the Brooklyn Sax Quartet creates music you don't need to understand to sit and sway in its rapturous hold.

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Aaron Shuman

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