Paul Van Ross – The Buck Stops Here (Rattle)
THIS ALBUM BY Australian saxophonist Paul Van Ross comes via that great NZ record company Rattle, but is seemingly on a sub-label called Independent Artists. Why is that relevant? Well, the audio standard of main label Rattle releases is so abidingly excellent that I would have been a little disappointed to learn that The Buck Stops Here is a Rattle release, per se.
It’s not that the sound is poor. Label owner Steve Garden, I’m sure, in mastering the album, will have extracted every possible goodness out of the recorded audio spectrum. It’s just that it’s not pristine, and it’s a little bit dull – there’s just not that extra sparkle at the top end, or the rumble one has come to expect from the bottom.
The Buck Stops Here is still a very good album, however, and I urge Witchdoctor listeners to have a listen for themselves.
Recorded one night live in a Melbourne club, it’s an album of mostly hard and fast bebop-inspired, 1950s-style jazz, with a particularly dirty-sounding sax taking the lead role, and with unusual support from a Hammond B3 organ, and guitar.
Those with a low toleration for saxophone may wish to avoid this, but it’s also an education for those whose exposure to the instrument is limited to Kenny G. Paul Van Ross plays a mean sax: it’s raucous and in your face and wraps itself deliciously around these mostly swinging grooves.
Some of you may remember the scene at the beginning of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, where a saxist is lose in a whirlpool of improvisational ecstacy in an LA club. The best thing about Lynch’s movies is often the sound design, and the director gets right into the vortex of the music by blasting it out at extreme volume. The Buck Stops Here is a bit like that: it deserves to be cranked up loud, so the lines of that calloused instrument hit you like sound sculptures, not just background decoration. GARY STEEL
PS, It’s clear that Paul Van Ross, like most jazz musicians, really lives for the live environment. New Zealand audiences will get a chance to see and hear for themselves this coming week when his group plays their CD launch gigs at:
• 1885 Britomart, 27 Galway St, Britomart Precinct, Auckland – Wednes 27 March
• Tauranga International Jazz Festival, Tauranga – Sunday 31 March and Monday 1 April.