In a recent Bags thread some comments surfaced about Brian Morton's recent Wire article on solo reed and brass recordings (The Primer: Lone Horns). One of my most beloved topics, I had to pick up a copy of the reliable UK mag and read it for myself. Just fresh from soaking up Morton's controversial overview, I've got some thoughts I'm aching to share. Instead of inserting them into the tangled morass of that Bags thread, I figured everyone's interests would be better served by fashioning a clean and tidy new home for them here. So what I've done is paste all the comments on Morton's piece from that thread into this text object for convenient reference and add a few of my own, with the hopes that this will serve as a perspicuous convocation on the topic of solo music for wind instruments that will offer informal augmentation for Morton's immensely valuable formal survey and a convenient opportunity for everyone to fully vent their gripes about its puzzling omissions.
In the case of Gianni Gebbia, whose work I've become increasingly enamored of in recent years to the point he'd easily make my saxophone top ten, I believe the developments in his alto sax vocabulary revealed in 1997's H Portraits and most vividly on 2000/2001's Arcana Major/Sonic Tarots Session are somewhat more germane than the mid-90s recording Body Limits that Morton selected.
In terms of the radicalism of his aesthetic innovations, I'd only cite Evan Parker and Michel Doneda as peers to Mats Gustafsson in the history of the saxophone. His new baritone solo disc Catapult, should've been cited, considering the profound and underdocumented developments in the years intervening between this 2005 recording and the 1996 recording Impropositions that Morton left to represent such an actively expanding player all by itself. Catapult is one the best solo saxophone records I've ever heard. Period. Also, Morton's blurb on Impropositions beats around the bush, nay, forest, of Gustafsson's radical expansion of possibilities for saxophone. It entirely fails to give even a faint hint of the content of the disc; I mean "fiery intensity"? Come on, there's a bucketload of saxophonists better slighted with that phrase and there's a lot more happening in Gustafsson's solo music, that disc and otherwise, than fiery intensity! The exact opposite of fiery intensity, for starters. By the way, Gustafsson has a new solo disc on slide saxophone, surely a first of its kind, and while I haven't scored a copy yet, I did see him do an earth-shattering extended solo on the extremely rare instrument a few months during a Brötzmann Tentet gig.
Morton's entry on Brötzmann is not only fabulously on-the-money, but rather witty as well!
Only one entry apiece for trumpet and clarinet? Absurd, of course, but more on the trumpet thing below when I get to my BIG GRIPE.
In terms of format for the primer, I find it odd that Morton lists three Roscoe Mitchell solo albums, at least one of which he doesn't seem to be even recommending at all, while offering entries for other musicians that omit masterpieces well worthy of a vigorous recommendation to curious listeners, as in the cases of John Butcher, Michel Doneda, GIANNI GEBBIA, and Ned Rothenberg. It's a frustrating inconsistency of treatment.