“Follow The Stick” is musician’s slang for following a conductor, but it also applies to the clarinet, which is sometimes subjected to a whole host of often derogatory nicknames, due to its unforgiving nature as an instrument. Better known for his exemplary sax playing (up to this point in time, at least), Sam Sadigursky successfully blows away any such preconceptions of the clarinet, with this, his debut for the New York label Brooklyn Jazz Underground. Since moving to New York in 2002, Sadigursky has toured and recorded as a saxophonist and clarinetist with artists such as Brad Mehldau, Lucia Pulido, Tom Jones, Linda Oh, and The Mingus Orchestra. This new recording, featuring thirteen original compositions, exclusively for clarinet, sees Sadigursky changing tack from his previous five “Words Project” albums, which featured music based on text and poetry. The album covers much ground, from blues to folk to jazz to classical and back again, with the clarinetist ably supported by Chris Dingham on vibes and marimba, Bobby Avey on piano, and Jordan Perlson on drums and percussion. The album also features appearances from Jason Palmer on trumpet and Ljova on viola.
75 minutes is a lot of music for one cd album, (a little pet hate of mine – too looooonnng), but does allow the composer to explore many different aspects of his music, making for a varied and interesting recording. Whilst some of the music is pretty standard fayre- albeit brilliantly executed, there are some outstanding compositions here that really do allow the clarinetist to shine. “Reach”, focusses on the interplay between clarinet and piano, and sparkles with a crystalline clarity that is both thoughtful and uplifting. The use of viola on “Looks Can Be Deceiving” is a stroke of genius. This is effectively a chamber piece, its stark beauty and wonderful playing bringing a genuine warmth and joy to the proceedings. I for one could quite happily listen to a whole album made up of such wonderful textures and sensitive interplay. In contrast, “Fast Money” goes for broke with its deep-rooted blues and gospel overtones. Lively and bewitching in turns. One of the session’s stronger compositions, “Touché” highlights some lovely performances, especially from vibes player Chris Dingham. A key feature of the album is how well Dingham and pianist Bobby Avey connect; layered and lyrical they intertwine with skill and precision, together creating a formidable partnership throughout. As for the “sound” of the clarinet, in a loosely based jazz context, my own personal preference is to hear its grace and elegance brought to the surface. One example of this is the wonderful “Heart” which really does bring Sadigursky’s skill as both composer and performer to the fore. A gentle opening builds into a bluesy canter before dropping back into a gorgeous melancholy – something the sound of the clarinet can do so well, especially when performed with such skill as it is here. This for me is the stand-out track of the album. I think it is fair to say that Sadigursky has found his voice on “Follow The Stick”, as a composer and an instrumentalist.