Chet Doxas Big Sky

Montreal tenor saxist/composer Chet Doxas has had heady company on stage and in the recording studio. He's worked with the likes of Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas and Maria Schneider, to name just a few. On this, his second album as leader, Doxas's compositions tend to the reflective and his saxophone shows glimmers of Jan Gabarek's glistening, full-toned throatiness, but often restrained where appropriate, as on "Big Sky," a downtempo, insistently throbbing original that showcases his and guitarist Ben Charest's ability to breathe melodies together to great expressive effect. Charest's sound is a CD strong point. Resonant, robust and full of nuance, it sings lines like on "For Jim" with subtlety and clarity. A minor drawback is how, in spots, the mix causes Jim Doxas's energetic drumming to appear overly busy and cluttering. Doxas is a strong "inside" improviser who plays with emotional abandon on "Sideshow," where his rhythmic freedom allows him to compact coiling scalar patterns into compelling, snaky arcs. Big Sky is a strong statement from a committed artist. (Justin Time)