Battle Trance, Palace of Wind

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 08.26.14 in Reviews

Travis Laplante woke one morning having dreamt of forming a quartet with fellow tenor saxophonists Jeremy Viner, Patrick Breiner and Matthew Nelson — none of whose work was known to him at the time. By evening, the foursome had assembled to begin the circular-breathing exercises and fleet-fingered arpeggiations that would blend them into a single dynamic entity over the course of Palace of Wind‘s 43 uninterrupted minutes of circling sound.

A showcase for the sheer physicality of massed saxophones

Situated somewhere between Colin Stetson’s one-man bass-sax attack and Bang On A Can composer Michael Gordon’s recent minimalist composition Rushes for six bassoons, Palace is a showcase for the sheer physicality of massed saxophones. They initially ascend from a barely audible state to a fiercely repetitive crescendo. Four become one, and then they splinter into separate entities again as long, slow passages gradually become chordal backdrops for emotional soloing. A lively fanfare eventually erupts, arpeggios billow softly skyward, and a thrilling, almost overpowering trilling hijacks your attention until all that is solid slowly melts back into the void.

Palace of Wind ruminates on energy, and you can hear Laplante’s passion for the Quigong practice of breath and body alignment in its ebb and flow. By translating free-improv energy into a structure that probably sounds looser than it actually is, Laplante long, spiraling breath of fresh air suggests a promising alternative to the tyranny of chaos.