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Saxophonist David Bixler explores life lived with joy, solace, and contentment.

After moving to NYC thirty years ago, saxophonist, composer, and educator David Bixler cut his teeth touring the world with the big bands of Lionel Hampton and Toshiko Akioshi. He later joined the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Big Band, with whom he played a decade-long residency of Sunday evenings at Birdland and won a LATIN GRAMMY for the recording, Final Night at Birdland. The passage of time encompassed a twelve year period of managing his son's health issues which caused a humbling reboot to his priorities in life and the role of music in it. In the summer of 2016, after reevaluating his circumstances he recorded In the Face of Chaos (2019) with Bixler, Boccato, Cowherd, and Sturm, Blended Lineage (2020) with the Bixtet, and Inside the Grief (2020) with trio incognito. His last project, THE LANGSTON HUGHES PROJECT vol. 1, which PARIS-MOVE describes as "a touch of genius" is a new recording featuring music inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes..

The issue of faith in jazz is sometimes debatable. There have been religionists, atheists, agnostics, and even extraterrestrial-ists in jazz (e.g. Sun Ra). However, there is no debate that jazz is spiritual music. The musicians who play this thing, all do so hoping for and believing in a better day. Sometimes with religious-like fervor.

I speak for myself when I say every time I approach the piano, the bandstand and my colleagues, I do so with the understanding that I am approaching an altar, fellow ministers, and a congregation that needs ministering too.

I don't mean to imply denominational categories. All musicians may not feel as I do and an argument can be made about playing the piano, leading a band and playing a gig as nothing more than transactional. However, we don't get paid all that well.

Still when we play our music it is pure Zen Buddhist, Southern Baptist, Zoroastrian, Judaism, Islamic, Yoruban, Orisha trans denominationalism. With a dose of funk thrown in.

This recording made by a brother I love deeply, is an act of sublime believing. Faith in God, faith in humanity, faith in oneself and more than anything, faith in the limitless possibility for good inherent in all who will yield to their better selves. We must hope this is the case because otherwise the playing of this sacred improvisatory-based practice is an absurd act of ego gratification.

No, every note composed, improvised, or otherwise, must come from the deepest place of soul-feeling. And from the deepest hope that even in this scary moment in history, we can be better than we are. That will take help from above.

In the case of David Bixler, I know the man feels deeply and composes and performs from that inner place of pure feeling. David is a master of letting go and letting the journey dictate the destination. This is faith. David has mastery over that which cannot be quantified or measured.

He has surrounded himself with other spiritual masters, all of whom share this platform of ineffable, bliss that comes from mastery over the elements of existence that cannot be controlled. Life happens. The bad asses pick up their basses, sit down at the drums or piano, put the reed to their lips and play anyway. It is our balm in Gilead.

A Power Deferred
The first sound of this piece is the melody that is angular and strong. The instruments return the volley with short staccato statements until the groove settles and Bix (as we affectionately call him) takes on an extended improvisation. Listen to this solo and you will sense the many improvisatory languages David speaks. Jon Cowherd's solo extends form chordal syncopations before taking a line of flight and textures that come from the freedom of being tied to neither or both. Ike Sturm is a strong soloist with a bold melodicism that never denies or abandons the groove algorithm of the bajo.

Balm
This piece has an almost gospel rhythmic feel that makes me think of Church on a hot Sunday morning. It is a simple, melodic journey that becomes quite plaintive, almost pleading as if singing a hymn. Ike's solo is beautiful and reflective and takes full advantage of the gorgeous harmony and inflection of Jon's comping. Listen to David as his solo builds from the start in a freewheeling and joyful manner. Jon's take on things is pure style and bravado. One never gets the feeling that technique is on display even though the piano playing is sublime. The statement is more important than the language, the language more important than the words, the words more important than the letters, the grammar and letters suggestive of a larger meaning than the componentry.

Hide Seek Find
This piece feels, as the title suggests, like a playful child's game. Beginning with Rogerio Boccato's beautiful rhythmic freedom. A word about Rogerio, the time on this entire recording is flexible and never feels harsh or dogmatic. I always hated the term "lock down the groove". The great masters like Tony Williams, Max Roach and Dannie Richmond unleashed the groove and here Rogerio keeps the tradition of getting out of the way. This is what gives the sax, bass and piano solos the freedom to be time benders as well.

Down Up
This piece begins as a waltz-feeling but quickly transforms into a meter-morphing, flowing river. David's solo is particularly free in macro and micro explorations, stopping in a motif or extending in a larger train of thought. Jon's solo is similar in the sense of managing ideas on two plains, large and small. Listen again to Rogerio effortlessly managing the melody without ever tying it down but underpinning it with security and groove.

Peace Prize
The simple two-pronged melody is juxtaposed against a latin feel that is never constrictive but serves the offset of the melodic statements well. Here you can really feel Ike's special innate sense of Tumbao (or afro-latin groove). Jon's solo is also less bebop and more declamatory in a nod to the latin-ess of the groove. David's solo is very much rhythmic in function and sets off the simplicity of the opening beautifully. Ike on the other hand is very melodic in his approach and makes a nice contrast with the Tumbao-like performance of his timekeeping function.

I Spy
The drums set the vibe here with an extended and beautifully textured solo. This is not histrionic show off drumming. It's all about sound and texture between the drum's bass and piano. Out of time and mysterious until the Sax comes in with a languid, sweet melodic four note motif. I love when musicians play with and fold the elements of time.

It is as if David and his cohorts are suspended in the ether and yet are strangely architectural. When David starts playing semi-alone and explores sonic crevices from the saxophone it is as if time itself has slowed and we are joined in a cloud. Eventually the bass plays an eight-note pattern that takes us to the perimeter of the piece.

Clement
This is David's composing at its best. Taking a chunk of melody and spinning it in different angles and repeating it against different settings. It is hypnotic and reveals a willingness to lay aside the trappings of "jazz" to simply explore sound and thought. His solo here seems especially playful as if the compositional exactitude releases a side of his improvisatory prowess. Jon's solo likewise has a contrasting quality that pits angularity with linear displacement.

Lost Hours? No
There is a Lego building block quality to this composition that is fearless. Only David could take a four-note motif, repeat it in different settings and create an entire world. The inventiveness of his colleagues is a large measure of the success of this experiment. At the end of the day, it is fun playing with simplicity and recombing elements in different configurations.

I believe this recording is a document of a life lived with joy, solace, and contentment. Not a happy, giddy, vapid, self-contained understanding but rather an acceptance of all, good and bad, and finding gratitude in that acceptance. Finding others that understand gratitude, and acceptance and documenting all of it so that you and I can find solace in our crazy schedules and rapidly unhinging planet. Listen carefully to the music on this recording. If you donít hear joy, wonderment, and faith, you should probably be practicing, joy, wonderment, and faith. Life happens. The rest is our beatitude.

Artturo O'Farrill

1. A Power Deferred 7:50
2. Balm 7:02
3. Hide Seek Find 6:21
4. Down/Up 5:46
5. Peace Prize 7:21
6. I Spy 8:42
7. Clement 5:14
8. Lost Hours? No 7:30

55:46 total time
all compositions David F. Bixler BMI p&c 2024

David Bixler - alto saxophone
Jon Cowherd - piano
Ike Sturm - bass
Rogerio Boccato - percussion

Recorded June 29 2024 by Peter Karl at Acoustic Recording Brooklyn Mastered by Alessio Romano at Studio 42 Brooklyn. David Bixler is a Vandoren and Selmer Artist

Artist: David Bixler
Album: BEATitude
Street Date: April 26, 2024
Add Date: May 6, 2024
Label: Tiger Turn
Artist Website: davidbixler.com



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