The soprano saxophone that opens Anenon's new disc, Tongue, is not the only reason to check out Brian Allen Simon's fourth LP; acoustic piano, synthesizer and field recordings all figure prominently. But it does make an outsized contribution to what can only be described as a beautifully composed and performed disc.
That's no small feat when you consider the degree of difficulty presented by the soprano sax. Primarily a jazz instrument, it is for accomplished hands only. Simon delivers a number of remarkable performances: "Two for C" is one example. Overtop a synth loop that Philip Glass would be proud to call his own, and light piano accompaniment, he pushes his instrument in ways it isn't often heard. Clearly, the man can play.
This particular sax can be a bit polarizing though. After enjoying real avant-garde legitimacy in the illustrious hands of John Coltrane, the soprano saxophone has fallen in with less celebrated company. Its regular appearances on dinnertime jazz and new age recordings have given the instrument a bad name. So much so that even innovative performances like this one suffer by association.
Stick with it though. The album grows stronger with repeated listens. "Campana," "Pure" and "Verso" are all exceptional. In its own way, each is exquisitely played and a pleasure to take in.
File the album in your new classical section, primarily because of Simon's world-class technique. But given the instrumentation, it could just as easily be marketed as an ambient or jazz album. It would be no less great a success. (Friends of Friends)