Paul Jones wears his literary inspiration rather well on Clean. Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, George Orwell’s 1984, Andy Weir’s The Martian and Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March are more than just titles that have simply popped into his brain, only to be spewed forth as song titles on his album. Rather the elemental wail of Allen Ginsberg, the ink-dark foreboding in George Orwell’s voice, the lunatic fringe inhabited by Augie March in Saul Bellow’s book have all been permeated the profound chamber music that Paul Jones has created on this, his third and most promising album.
Taken separately each of the songs might have been inspired by scenes in the life of their composer, but together they work to describe a deep, existential angst that has gripped him, perhaps many more young men and women like him in America – and indeed the world too. Their (the songs’) significance in the context of The Madness of America – Paul Jones’ America – is really unavoidable. And so, choosing the imbue the music with a dark tonality together with the use of writing often (appropriately) dissonant contrapuntal lines for the reeds, woodwinds and cello makes heightens the menace of songs such as “Ive Sn Th Gra Md” and the other interludes that sew the suite of songs together.
Mr. Jones plays with a fierce, raw tone. His notes are firm and round and often infuse his phrases with visceral energy and a gravitas that seems rare in young musicians composing and performing today. All of this seems to sit well in his music, which also eschews fashionable posturing. But his playing is also tuned to the unique and precise moment of the narrative. Thus the tenor saxophonist’s elemental keening turns “Romulo’s Raga” into a highly effective lament. And he can – and does – tell a funny story with delightful puckishness on “Dirty Curty”, indicating also that all is not doom and gloom in his particular vision of the world.
But writing music that communicates a profound sensibility is only part of the task and indeed part of the reason for the poignant beauty of this disc. Much has also to do with idiomatic arrangements played by a skilled ensemble completely in tune with the leader’s vision and artistry. Each of the fifteen musicians picks up on even the minutest, nuanced expression required to give meaning and power to songs. The monumental heraldry of “I Am An American” is played in part with biting sardonicism by the core group of Mr. Jones, alto saxophonist Alex LoRe, guitarist Matt Davis and pianist Glenn Zaleski, while bassist Johannes Felscher and drummer Jimmy Macbride stay in the pocket awaiting each soloist’s return to the main theme.
And all of this wonderful music is captured in the warm, dry acoustic by David Stoller, an engineer with very large ears.
Track list – Ive Sn Th Gra Md; Clean; Alphabet Soup; The Generator; It Was Brgh Cold; Centre In The Woods; Romulo’s Raga; I Am An American; Hola, Amigo; Trio; Im Prety Uch Fkd; Buckley Vs. Vidal; Dirty Curty; The Minutiae Of Existence.
Personnel – Paul Jones: tenor saxophone; Alex LoRe: alto saxophone; Matt Davis: guitar; Glenn Zaleski: piano; Johannes Felscher: bass; Jimmy Macbride: drums; Mark Dover: clarinet (1, 5, 7, 11, 14); Ellen Hindson: oboe (1, 5, 7, 11, 14); Nanci Belmont: bassoon (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13); Susan Mandel: cello (3, 6, 9, 12); The SNAP Saxophone Quartet-Nicholas Biello: soprano saxophone (1, 5, 7, 11, 14); Andrew Gould: alto saxophone (1, 5, 7, 11, 14); Sam Dillon: tenor saxophone (1, 5, 7, 11, 14); Jay Rattman: baritone saxophone (1, 5, 7, 11, 14); The Righteous Girls-Gina Izzo: flute (1, 5, 7, 11, 14); Erika Dohi: piano (1, 5, 7, 11, 14).
Released – 2017
Label – Outside In Music
Runtime – 1:02:30