So, yeah, compositions by Bowie and Eno really made me fall for this new album from the Delta Saxophone Quartet


David Bowie went through many changes.  His metamorphoses in persona were as wild as those occurring in his music.  One such time, when he was strung out from a life of drugs and parties, Bowie retreated to Switzerland, before eventually settling in Berlin, Germany (hunkering down with Iggy Pop, actually).  Throwing himself into the art scene, Bowie developed an interest in the ambient and electronic music from that locale, and this led to meeting up with Brian Eno.  This partnership resulted in Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy… the albums Low, Heroes and Lodger.  The electro-ambient influence is evident in all three, especially the first recording, Low.

On Bowie, Berlin and Beyond, the Delta Saxophone Quartet embrace the songbook from that period of Bowie’s creative arc.  As the ambient drones of “Warzawa” prove immediately, this music is tailor made for the harmonies of a saxophone quartet.

On some tracks, they grab ahold of the melody and don’t let go.  The propulsion of “Speed of Life” matches that of its original, while the quartet’s rendition of “Breaking Glass” has the same punchy swagger.  And though they certainly honor the Bowie originals, these aren’t by the number takes.  The quartet freely add harmonic twists and quirky solos that never emerge on a Bowie recording.  And then there’s the subtlety applied to a rendition of “Heroes,” and how the song only really shows its face as they approach the finale.  Arguably, the strongest track is a rendition of “Art Decade,” where the quartet splits the difference between remaining tethered to the original composition and wandering off to explore where it might take them.  The result is something exceedingly hypnotic, both through its emphasis of a catchy melody and its beguiling motion.

As a special treat, the quartet also performs something from Brian Eno… the opening passage of the classic work Music for Airports.  This, along with some interludes of improvisation, completes a very satisfying and enjoyable dive into Bowie’s Berlin period.

Your album personnel:  Graeme Blevins (sopranino & soprano saxophones, clarinet), Peter Whyman (alto sax, clarinet), Tim Holmes (tenor sax, clarinet) and Chris Caldwell (baritone sax, bass clarinet).

Released on FMR Records.

Music from London.

Available at:  Amazon