Preminger Has Thunda in his Sax!


THUNDA / PREMINGER-CASS: Slaughter. Me You Sad. Chron. Tradr Hoez. Slow Ridah. Roobz. Huck It. PREMINGER: Iris. Drone. Ricky / Noah Preminger, s-sax/a-sax/t-sax; Kim Cass, bs / Dry Bridge Records, no number

Tenor saxist Noah Preminger, whose work I have consistently raved about on this blog, normally works with a quartet or quintet that includes guitarist Max Light or pianist Kris Davis with bassist Kim Cass and a drummer (either Dan Weiss or Rudy Royston), sometimes with the brilliant young trumpeter Jason Palmer added to the mix, but here he reduces his accompaniment to solely the bass. Part of this was due to the Covid-19 pandemic, since it was easier for a duo to work together and record than a quartet or quintet, but Preminger also really liked just hearing what Cass was doing on bass. Thus he decided on a “remote album” recorded between July 11 and December 20 of last year. Whether he had Cass lay down his bass tracks and send them to him, then multi-layer himself over what he heard and send it to Cass for further additions, or whether they swapped tapes over those months is not specified.

The resulting album, scheduled for release on April 21, is one of the most fascinating that Preminger has ever done, a real free jazz outing in which he stretches himself even beyond what he has done in the past. Yet even more amazingly, despite the free association of ideas that went between them there is still an underlying sense of structure in this music. The layering of his saxophones adds more texture to the sound, but nothing in it sounds incoherent.

In the opener, Slaughter, as in the ensuing tracks, there’s almost an eerie feeling about this session. Preminger plays several held notes and some passages on the edge of his reed, producing a breathy, raspy sound which is not usually typical of his work. Indeed, he seems to be trying to produce different textures of sound along with the different moods, and the end result is quite extraordinary.

Cass is also pushed to his creative limits on this session, sometimes leading the saxist and sometimes complementing what he is playing. Except for the fact that the bass sounds a bit odd, as if it were recorded in a small, acoustically dead space (probably his living room or home music studio), you’d never guess that these two artists weren’t in the same room at the same time. Iris is a particularly odd piece, consisting of a theme rather than just a few musical gestures, and here Cass’ contributions are also kept minimal, allowing the saxist full rein.

Tradr Hoez is the most swinging number on the disc, and here both Preminger and Cass sound as if they’re having great fun. This piece also has a certain Mingus-like quality to it, with moments of rallentando where they slow down the tempo to emphasize certain licks before resuming the original pace. On Drone there’s an odd, high-pitched electric organ tone that is sustained throughout the piece, increasing in volume, which again adds ambience but in this case not any particular musical content. There is a similar high-pitched whine that comes and goes in Slow Ridah as well as a point, around the 2:10 mark, where only Preminger is heard overlapping himself on saxes as the bassist drops out.

No matter how you hear it, this is clearly the strangest album that Preminger has made to date, full of creativity but also of a somewhat sad, forlorn vibe, yet his playing retains its usual high level. He is clearly one of the finest jazz saxophonists around today, and Cass is a superb and responsive bassist.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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