Raymond MacDonald / Gunther Baby Summer – Delphinius And Lyra (CF 086)
Hot on the heels of the recent All-Rhames release comes another spirited sax-drums session. A gripping festive ambience intermittently runs through this live gig and it reaches its most explicit manifestation in the many moments when McDonald stops blowing and proceeds to sing swooning wordless choruses that subsequently draw carnavalesque blasts on a whistle from his partner. Yet what the men chose not to play is as important as what they do, and at key junctures in compositions the absence of shriek or roll in favour of an understated breathy drone or the faintest patter of a palm gives the music that crucial sense of enigma that makes the evolution and resolution of a given idea hard to fathom. In other words, contrasts come thick and fast and they’re often very stark. The saxophone’s high register banshee-cry can preface a hearty rhythm & blues honk that will then turn to a machine gun decimation of an arpeggio while the percussion veers from bubbling snare to brassy throb to a cunning sotto voce on cymbals. Dynamic range thus stretches beyond expectations for a small group. Then again we have a small group of singers as well as players here.