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Roxy Coss: Chasing the Unicorn

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Roxy Coss: Chasing the Unicorn
Photograph by Diana Mino
There is much to appreciate in this, the third album from saxophonist, and now bass clarinetist, Roxy Coss. The album, Chasing the Unicorn is first and foremost a recording that features the work of one of this generations’ most stylish and talented composers. The writing here features much more than attractive melodies; the changes are full of wonder and surprise, each one a more startling and beckoning twist and turn that draws you inexorably into its labyrinthine melodic adventure. Best of all, there is always something viscerally exciting about the manner in which rhythmic momentum carries each tune from the beginning, through a mid-section where swing and sparkling invention is king, into a beautifully-crafted finale for every piece.

Miss Coss backs up every reticulate network of notes in her compositions by navigating brilliantly through the written parts, which always branch out into and exquisite improvised parts. This takes devilishly good technical skill, which she has in spades. She also invariably plays with nuanced expression and this is magnificently captured in two of the best charts on the album. The first of these is Wayne Shorter’s broodingly gorgeous tune “Virgo”. (The second is “Endless Cycle”). On “Virgo” Miss Coss makes her debut on bass clarinet and fuses the song’s innate gravitas with the burnished, woody tone of the bass clarinet – a splendid manipulation of a difficult-to-play instrument that she repeats in the few, short, stabbing bars she plays on “Benny’s Tune” from the pen of Lionel Loueke, this time to augment her spectacular work on the tenor saxophone.

Another wonderful aspect of Miss Coss’ extraordinary ability is the easy virtuosity that she brings to performances on the soprano saxophone. She sounds supremely confident on “Endless Cycle”, as she taps into the song’s gorgeously rolling melody which she turns inside out as she vaults over the melodic line. I would be remiss if I did not mention that Miss Coss’ performance on the other tunes is nothing short of superb. Her ability to also cut to the chase, unravelling the core melodic beauty of this music is showcased on two memorable occasions, here on Chasing the Unicorn (itself a wonderful song): the first is on the Beatles’ “Oh Darling” and later on Willie Nelson’s classic “Crazy”.

As always Miss Coss has the skills of some fine musicians to propel the music into the stratosphere. First among them is the ubiquitous Alex Wintz, who undertakes great harmonic flights throughout, most especially on the short acoustic guitar solo feature on “Crazy”. And just when you wondered what Miss Coss would do without Chris Pattishall, Dezron Douglas and Willie Jones III, she shows up again an equally heavyweight section in Glenn Zaleski, Rick Rosato and Jimmy Macbride. Together the musicians enable the ever-talented Miss Coss put an indelible stamp on some fine music captured in the beautiful, dry acoustic of this record by Nick O’Toole and Michael Brorby.

Track list – 1: Chasing the Unicorn; 2: A Shade of Jade; 3: You’re There; 4: Free to Be; 5: Oh! Darling; 6: Never Enough; 7: Virgo; 8: Unwavering Optimism; 9: Benny’s Tune; 10: Endless Cycle; 11: Crazy

Personnel – Roxy Coss: tenor saxophone (2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11) and soprano saxophones (1, 4, 10), bass clarinet (1, 7, 9); Alex Wintz: guitar; Glenn Zaleski: piano; Rick Rosato: bass; Jimmy Macbride: drums

Released – 2017
Label – Posi-Tone
Runtime – 57:21

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