Posi-Tone

“Chasing The Unicorn” explodes out of the speakers with great urgency and high spirits.

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Saxophonist, bass clarinetist, educator, and composer Roxy Coss has a new album, her third as a leader and first for Posi-Tone Records. “Chasing the Unicorn” features six original pieces plus works by Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Lionel Loueke, Lennon & McCartney, and Willie Nelson. With her regular band, composed of Alex Wintz (guitar), Glenn Zaleski (piano), Rick Rosato (bass), and Jimmy Macbride (drums), the sounds explode out of the speakers with great urgency and high spirits.

The title track opens the album with the leader on soprano sax but also overdubbed tenor sax and bass clarinet.  That “full” sound plus strong solos from Ms. Coss, Wintz and Zaleski as well as the intelligent arrangement is rewarding for the listener. The tenor sax leads the way on another original “You’re There“, the music pushed along by Macbride’s active drumming. Ms Coss’s solo rides the percussive wave. Wintz and Zaleski offer good counterpoint as the solo continues.  The melody of “Unwavering Optimism” moves upward throughout yet notice the step down as the band moves into the solo section.

As for the non-original pieces, Loueke’s “Benny’s Tune” brings back the bass clarinet in a supporting role as the band explores the rhythmic melody line. The interweaving of piano and tenor sax while Wintz joins the rhythm section catches the ear as does the guitarist’s high-energy solo. When Ms. Coss re-enters for her tenor solo, she dances atop the bouncy rhythms.  “Oh Darling” (from The Beatles “Abbey Road“) maintains its bluesy feel but with a sophisticated touch, not unlike a David “Fathead” Newman approach to a “pop” tune. The Quintet darts through Joe Henderson’s “A Shade of Jade” with Ms. Coss’s tenor leading the way. Strong solos all around from the front line on the hard-bop track. Wayne Shorter’s lovely ballad “Virgo” puts the bass clarinet up front, a classy move, and Ms. Coss’s solo is quite impressive. But, pay close attention to the work of Zaleski, Rosato, and Macbride as they are quiet yet active in support.  The album closes with Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” – the tenor solo is reminiscent of both Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster in tone and attack.  Wintz’s guitar solo stands out as well.

Chasing The Unicorn” follows Ms. Coss’s “Restless Idealism” (Origin Records) release by 15 months yet feels like a giant step in her career.  One can hear in the maturity of the compositions, in her development on both the soprano sax and bass clarinet, and her work as a bandleader.  This is a group you’ll want to see and hear. Each member plays with strength and intelligence, adding to the songs in many different and often subtle ways. The faces of contemporary music are always changing, more young people are getting involved (even now, at a time when the business end of the “business” can be frustrating), and we are hearing news way to approach both tradition and change.  Give a close listen to Roxy Coss and this ensemble.

Richard Kamins

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Written by jamo

April 24th, 2017 at 12:21 pm