Archive for December 7, 2010

Portland’s Paxselin Quartet

Playing in Portland, Ore., tonight, Dec. 7, opening for Endangered Blood, at The Hop and Vine (1914 N. Killingsworth). See also Portland Eye & Ear.

Paxselin Quartet Hollow Earth (Diatic, 2007)

Hollow Earth opens with a blast of fire, a hail that lets you know the group is serious about free jazz. That same track, “The Approach,” then moves into a serious chamber-jazz mood that lingers for the next two tracks. It’s a different way to start an album, and a quick summary of this band’s talents.

It’s later on that the band gets into a looser, goofing-around kind of jazz. “Tada” is a pleasant little romp with a theme that actually reflects the title (you know — ta-da!). Then there’s “Carol Channing’s Coming to Town,” which you’d expect to put a smile on your face. It’s an upbeat little number with some nicely woven sax soloing from Mary Sue Tobin (who is also part of The Quadrophones, a “single-sex sax quartet“). And “Scherzo Schitzo,” holds up at a nice frantic pace.

The instrumentation here is sax and clarinet, bass and drums. It’s like a little slice of downtown NYC inhabiting Portland, Ore. The band puts together some good pieces here, with interesting composing and a good sense of mood for the soloing spaces. It appears to be one of those local projects whose members are dedicated to the group but can get together only occasionally; they put out one CD in 2004 and this one three years later, but nothing since. But the chemistry among the four members shows through, as the songs have a well-steeped or well-aged feel.

And I don’t just mean the fast parts, like the skronk attack on “Endless Ironic Tragedies – A Spanish-American War Re-Enactment.” The slow parts are good, too. A sparse region of “Churchland” has Chad Hensell’s clarinet alone against Bill Athens’ bass, a chipper little pause in the action. One of the early slow tracks, “Mist,” is a good eight-minute ride, using slow bowed bass to build a sense of tension and drama; the sax solo, again with just Athens’ bass accompanying, is a solitary moonlight stroll with comforting hints of blues.

This would be a fun band to see live. And hey, guess what: If you’re in or near Portland, Ore., you’ll get your chance tonight (see above)!

You can find Hollow Earth at eMusic and CD Baby.

December 7, 2010 at 5:13 am Leave a comment


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