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September 29, 2005

Canadian Jazz Saxophonist Dave Camwell – CD Release

Written by
cindy mcleod

CD Release / jazz instrumental
Dave Camwell / Flip Side of the Coin
Indie / 2005

Canadian Dave Camwell is a saxophonist/composer/arranger with tale as yet untold due to his tender age of 27, but I believe he is made of epic proportions musically, and plan to keep my eyes and ears on him over the next years. That’s not to say the man hasn’t built an impressive set of performance, recording, publishing, awards and endorsement credentials in less than a decade, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Oregon… obviously he’s a hard working guy.

Flip Side of the Coin is his first outing as a leader, and is a portrait of his joyfully expansive musical vision. This recording has been designed and crafted like fine architecture, precise and articulate from the bottom up, with the rich, lustrous arrangements forming the foundation to suspend the fluid and expressive soloists. There’s a delightful collection of compositions from the pens of Pat Metheny, John Coltrane, Tom Harrell, and Andy Nevala, and features three Camwell originals that stand firmly alongside them. The combination of all the above, along with the highly talented ensemble, make for a very strong debut, one that places Camwell firmly on the jazz map.

There are many standout ensemble and soloist performances, it strikes me Camwell was very thoughtful about whom he chose to express his vision. Camwell himself plays alto, tenor and soprano saxes with virtuosity and passion, each voice lending authority and confidence to the compositions. Drummer Andy Heglund is a well-defined player who fuses with both acoustic bassist Forest Geenough, and electric bassist Nate Philips, to lay down immutable tempos and exciting rhythmic interplay, and the rhythm section is completed and refined by the outstanding pianist/keyboardist Andy Nevala, who also contributes a composition and an arrangement. The horn section, dynamically arranged throughout the CD, includes trumpet/flugel player Tom Barber, trumpeter Chris Wynans, saxophonist Melissa Marko, and trombonist Oscar Diaz.

There are several performances of note, but Camwell is clearly the leader and his personality comes shining blithely through, it’s no wonder this guy has caught the attention of many in such a short time. He captures the essence of Trane in his edgy, angular reading of Impression, where his alto takes us to a nighttime citiscape of energetic bustle, and the delicate lyricism of Harrell’s April Mist is buoyed by the gentle nudge of his alto, lifting the melody effortlessly. Metheny’s Last Train is punctuated by a spirited soprano solo, demonstrating Camwell’s facility on the instrument, but his depth is revealed in his own compositions, where there’s a sense of freedom and flow in his playing. The urgency of Jessica Rabbitt is split like an atom when Camwell’s solo alto comes in, and the sculptural title cut, Flip Side of the Coin, is granite and glass in texture, his tenor at once jagged and sharp, cool and smooth. Best of all are Camwell’s arrangements, painting a large canvas with a wide palette, his intro on Metheny’s If I Could is like a slow and splendorous sunset of many colours that every student arranger in the world should study. I love the vocal written into the the arrangements on the first two cuts, an underused technique that offers a human voice to the reed and brass layers.

Flip Side of the Coindelivers a broad spectrum of feels, sounds, and styles here, each carefully designed and fastidiously produced to offer a provocative listening experience, one that will resonate long after the recording ends. Not only that, with each listen you’ll make a new and exciting discovery… now that’s a great jazz recording! Keep them coming, Mr. Camwell, you are sure to lead us through new and uncharted territory in the years to come, and we look forward to it in anticipation!

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