Online since August 2002

Maybe too far out there

Reviewed July 2009

Cerberus Rising
Cerberus Rising
By Jason Robinson

Circumvention Music: 2009

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Circumvention Music entry.

Even for folks who like their music way out there, for whom melody is a dirty word, who embrace their inner cacophony, San Diego saxophonist Jason Robinson's latest takes some effort to wrap your head around.

For starters, the saxophone in all its many variants is not an instrument one easily associates with solo performance. Piano? Sure, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson could hold a room rapt on the 88s. Guitar? Absolutely; Joe Pass had everything he needed in those six strings.

But the sax lacks the ability to play multiple notes at the same time – to harmonize itself – that guitar and piano have. It's one note at a time, and no matter how gifted, few saxophonists in history could hold our attention in a solo setting. (Coltrane, maybe, or Lester Young or Coleman Hawkins.)

Making this even more of a challenge is the fact that on this album, Robinson heads into orbit out beyond Orentte Coleman. Maybe not qutie to Planet Yoko, but awfully darn close.

Many of the tracks here are, by all appearances, fully improvised – composed on the fly. There are no strong themes or melodies to hold the listener's attention, no repeated motifs to offer a sense of structure.

Robinson plays with a gorgeous tone, and his improvisations on the slower pieces are gorgeous. (Particularly lovely is "Dura Mater".) On tracks like "Three Sphinxes of Bikini," however, the playing gets a bit dissonant and to the untrained ear sounds like noise.

Given the lack of familiar markers by which to judge the music found here, few outside hardcore avant-gardists or jazz experimentalists are likely to find this a compelling listen.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).

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