CD review

Apollo and Artvark – Collide and Merge

Apollo and Artvark – Collide and Merge
(Oink Records. CD review by Rob Adams)

It was, if I remember correctly, the estimable 29th Street Saxophone Quartet who expressed a wish to have audiences hear their music without noticing that they had no conventional rhythm section and promptly caused “Oh right, there’s no conventional rhythm section here” responses, so well did they function without one.

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Something similar is at play here as two saxophone quartets, one from the UK, the other from the Netherlands, do indeed collide and merge, as the title has it. There’s actually more merging than collision, though, as genial interplay and gorgeous orchestration, with the occasional more astringent solo, is the result of their union.

The writing is excellent and at times as crafty as it is well crafted, and the players make the most of the variety of styles at work, from the almost Ellingtonian Rather Me, with its two baritones – one riffing the other exploring – leading off before rich orchestral colourisation arrives to the ingenious adaptation of a Steve Gadd drum solo for eight saxes. The playful intro there captures lone drumsticks bouncing on skins perfectly and the chordal progressions emphasise Dr Steve’s inherent musicality.

At times I’m reminded of Loose Tubes, with their witty, optimistic themes and yearning improvisations, and while there’s strong, very technical writing in places, there’s also great and superbly effective use of simplicity, particularly on Clockwork Blue as the fragments and motifs converge into a satisfying whole.

All in all a compelling listen that whets the appetite no end for the live experience, which is scheduled for the RNCM Saxophone Day in Manchester on 3 November 2019 and possibly other dates around the same time.

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