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Tony Bevan

Wednesday, Apr 26 2000
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Tony Bevan
British improvisor Tony Bevan makes big noise on a big horn -- the bass saxophone. Arguably the great loner in the forward-jazz family of reeds, this formidable instrument likely sees less action than it should, because its booming tone could easily overwhelm the less brawny sounds on the bandstand. Plus, the average jazz player can't handle the requisite breath to make this monster sing; he might bust a lip or a lung just trying to fill up the horn's mighty chamber.

But Bevan clearly thrives on the challenges of the instrument, as well as the unaccompanied format. On Three Oranges, a minidisc EP of lone improvs recorded live in London a couple of years ago, he uses immense blasts of volume and a remarkable timbral breadth to affect a kind of bestial power and primal intensity. It's a raw approach to creative music, but far from unrefined. In fact, the wholeness of Bevan's work is undeniable: Each spontaneous composition surges into a well-developed arc of sputtered and splattered through-lines (aka a complete song).

Though he's only appeared on a handful of hard-to-find albums since debuting in 1989, Bevan has toured and performed with some of Britain's veteran improvisers, including bassist Paul Rogers, vocalist Phil Minton, and guitarist Derek Bailey. But perhaps the most telling sign of the saxist's growing recognition as a player of uncommon depth is his recent guest role on Teletubbies, an extraordinary children's TV show that revels in sounds of all shapes and sizes. Apparently the kiddies went gaga on his big noise.

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Sam Prestianni

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