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Published: 2012/05/30
by Ron Hart

Travis Laplante
Heart Protector

Travis Laplante Heart Protector (Skirl)

Colin Stetson New History Warfare Vol. II: Judges (Constellation)

Music for solo saxophone recieved a major shot in the arm in the past year with a pair of incredible exploratory works from two of jazz’s most daring young lions of the brass fantasy.

As a member of such boundary-pushing acts as Little Women, Extra Life and Skeletons, saxophonist Travis Laplante has turned the NYC experimental music circuit on its earhole with his uncompromising skronk. And on his proper debut under his own accord, the 28-year-old wunderkind recounts one harrowing summer holed up in a Vermont attic trying to overcome a debilitating bout with vertigo with a five-song suite for solo tenor sax that exudes every ounce of chaos and calm he experienced that season. From the soaring heights by which he takes his horn on Heart Protector, it seems that Laplante has overcome his fear of high places just fine.

Meanwhile, the reigning heavyweight champion of freeform improvisation on the saxophone, Mr. Colin Stetson, continued to offset his status as one of the most in-demand brass men in modern rock in 2011 with the second volume of his acclaimed New History Warfare series. With Judges, the current touring member of Bon Iver transforms his bass saxophone into a multitude of instrumental possibilities, emulating fuzz guitars, droning basslines and clanging percussion through the din of his singular horn and the masterful circular breathing techniques that are normally reserved for yoga masters and Tibetan monks. Both Heart Protector and Judges are excellent examples of the evolution of Sonny Rollins’ concept of “Saxophone Colossus” in the 21st century.

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