It may be an aphorism that younger musicians keep the elder statesmen on their toes. The most famous case was John Coltrane, who, though only four years his senior, took the time to acknowledge the effect that younger fellow tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins with his composition ‘Like Sonny’. With disparate styles of playing becoming the order of the day this phenomenon is a lot more dramatic. Today, it’s worth considering how the éminence gris of the tenor saxophone, Mr. Rollins himself would react to an old-fashioned cutting contest with Kamasi Washington. The thought is not entirely an apostasy. Listening to the baritone saxophonist Shrirantha Beddage, especially on Momentum, his third record as leader, one struck not only by how awesome a talent the young musician is but also how the young meister would leave many older, more experienced low register reeds players huffing and puffing in an effort to catch up.
Such hyperbole might seem like spectacular puffery on paper, but all it takes is to spin Momentum on your CD player to experience the jaw dropping veracity of the word very early in the proceedings. It’s not just the fact that virtuosity takes hold of the ear, not even the fact that Beddage is a virtuoso on multiple woodwind instruments and the piano as well. No, it is an unparalleled sophistication that comes from the seamless combination of intellect and intuition; something that enables him to build phrases around a perfect note, and lines around perfect phrases. But first there is a sense that Shrirantha Beddage is born into music. Quite soon, however, by the time ‘Gravity’ comes around the listener is lifted into a rarefied realm by a budding young master who is unafraid to challenge and be challenged by intellect and craftsmanship that is nearly always idiomatic.
How else could this come about except through the expertise of musicianship, and an intellect blessed with a wholly romantic imagination? Which then leads to the argument that albums are not really ‘projects’, much less ‘concepts’ from which songs are derived. All the more reason to be mesmerised by a series of songs inspired that have been inspired by astrophysical ideas, hypotheses and theories. What makes this music rise organically out of the ‘Axis of Rotation’, for instance, the sound of notes spinning out of the instruments are an integral part of idea, metaphor and technique. Shrirantha Beddage may not be the first to put all of this together in a song. Wayne Shorter has been doing that for some years now. But Beddage serves notice that he is certainly on the path to compositional and musical enlightenment. And this is where Beddage, way ahead of his peers in many respects, is ready to take on the old elite.
Of course, Beddage will develop further. He has not yet reached the peak of his abilities yet. But on evidence from Momentum he appears ready for lift-off. Happily, along for the ride is a small group of Canada’s finest: Bassists Rich Brown (a stellar instrumentalist and deep thinker) and Mike Downes, a veteran of many battles; David Restivo, a pianist of great ability, who contributes not only technical expertise, but wonderful ideas as well. And then there two of the best drummers that Beddage could find anywhere: the Canadian ‘professor’ of the kit, Mark Kelso and the marvellous Will Kennedy – yes that Will Kennedy of the Yellowjackets. What they bring to this performance is unique and compelling from beginning to end.
Track List: Pork Chop; Drag and Drop; Gravity; Centrifugal Force; Momentum; Axis of Rotation; Angle on Incidence; The Long Goodbye.
Personnel: Shrirantha Beddage: baritone saxophone, piano (8), Fender Rhodes (3 and 6), bass clarinet (2 and 5); alto saxophone, clarinet, flute (2); David Restivo: piano (1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7), Fender Rhodes (2 and 8); Mike Downes: bass (1, 6, 7 and 8); Rich Brown: bass (2 – 5); Mark Kelso: drums (1, 6, 7 and 8); William Kennedy: drums (2 – 5).
Label: Independent SB001
Running time: 53:25