Stretching The Sax
Dylan Ward: Tourmaline
(Neuma Records / July 15, 2022)
Saxophonist Dylan Ward was inspired by the tourmaline in creating this collection of work, a semi-precious stone that can come in many different colours, and is spread throughout the globe. In new age circles, it's knows as the stone of reconciliation, and is linked to healing and positive connections. It was also of importance in alchemy as a symbol of the philosopher's stone.
According to the liner notes, he set out to create a "kaleidoscopic array of electroacoustic textures", and that's an apt description of the five tracks. They explore the range of the saxophone, from solo to hybrid electroacoustical instrument.
He uses a variety of effects, including dense electronic processing, delay effects, and sampling. Ward works with five young composers, Alexandra Gardner, Viet Cuong, Seth Andrew Davis, Kenneth Michael Florence, and Emma O’Halloran, each contributing one of the tracks. Davis also contributes laptop and electronics on his track, Angelus Novus, a multi-layered web of electronics and agitated saxophone.
Kenneth Michael Florence adds guitar, pianos and electronics to their piece Seven Steps. It's an intriguing mix of jazz-pop rhythm guitar, exploratory sax, and fuzzy electronic sounds that weave in and out of each other.
In Tourmaline, the title track, Ward's saxophone emerges from a web of electronic sounds in a compelling and virtuosic thread that drifts in and out of melody. Viet Cuon's Naica explores the sounds of the sax enhanced by a range of effects that take it from whimsical to spooky and atmospheric.
Irish composer Emma O'Halloran's Sum of its Parts is a shimmering wave of sound that seamlessly integrates the sax into a kind of hybrid sound.
It's a very interesting debut album from an artist obviously committed to exploring the saxophone and its possibilities with a 21st century mindset.