Shirantha Beddage ‘Momentum’ CD/DIG (Private Press) 2/5

shirantha-beddageIt’s one of jazz music’s little dichotomies that the saxophone is probably the instrument that people favour the most but the baritone sax is probably not the saxophone that people would say they like the sound of. This is further confirmed by the paucity of well-known baritone sax musicians that have been on the scene.
That sound is something that the artist has to cultivate and hone so that listener falls in love or is simply beguiled by the notes that pour forth from that big horn. I am sorry to say that I was neither beguiled nor did I fall in love with Shirantha’s horn on these 8 compositions.
That is not to say that this album is not worth your time – there is some nice playing on here (the pianist, David Restivo sounding like he’s having a very nice lyrical time thank you). The opening track ‘Pork Chop’ is a good ol’ get up and get at ‘em kind of song with the trio of Mike Downes (bass) and Mark Kelso (drums) ably backing the aforementioned pianist on this almost clap along song. This would probably sound great in a live setting but seems a little lacklustre on record and I fear that is mainly down to the leader. Every artist takes a solo here with the bass and drums solo taking top billing.

‘Drag and Drop’ is a low-slung slow funk/blues number featuring Rich Brown on electric bass and another very nice solo from the pianist (this time on the Fender Rhodes). I’m sorry to say that the baritone could do with being sharper and snappier – again I did not feel engaged by it.

‘Gravity’ is the third track on the album and a slower one. It was this one that I felt more moved by Shirantha’s playing as he soared over this song – a beautiful piece.

‘Centrifugal Force’ might have gone the same way but is a little more technical in its approach: the melody is laid out by the band before heading into another fine solo from Restivo on piano that runs for almost 3 minutes (of an 8 min track) which sets things up nicely for Beddage who does an equally nice (but shorter) job.

The title track dedicated to film scorer and Hitchcock favoured composer Bernard Hermann was a little disappointing in that I expected more of a Hermann-esque approach to that song. But I guess a musical homage or dedication can take many forms.

‘Axis of Rotation’ for me is the track that shows the most promise: it has a confident feel about it and the composition seems the most modern of all the pieces here but just when you sit up and wonder where this will go, it sadly ends. By far the shortest cut here weighing in at only 2:37mins.

The second shortest track here ‘Angle of Incidence’ also sounds great – a bop piece with reminders of Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ augmented once again by a wonderful piano solo. A track like this was made for a horn like this. Could Shirantha have ‘gone to town’ more with this one, yes he could but he didn’t do too badly on it.

I do hate to rubbish young hardworking talent but when there are so many artists out there vying for our hard-earned money, there are better things to purchase.

Sammy Goulbourne