Cover Photo: Oleg Danilov
REVIEWED BY: Bob Fuson
Bob Fuson is the Instructor of Woodwinds at Hastings College and Instructor of Saxophone at Doane University. His research is focused on the life and works of the late LeRoi Moore and he is active as both a classical and jazz saxophonist.
Label: Self Produced
Greg Dudzienski: La Luna
by Bob Fuson
Chicago is home to a cadre of exemplary reedmen; from the father-son duo of Von and Chico Freeman, to Frank Catalano, Chris Madsen, and Victor Goines. The Second City is never without some of the finest musicians on the planet, and you can count saxophonist Gregory Dudzienskiamong them. A former instructor at the Navy’s School of Music (now retired), Dudzienski shines on his release La Luna. With a full, husky tenor sound in tow the former Bergonzi student brings to mind not only his former mentor but the timbres of Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson as well.
La Luna is at times a hard-swinging force of nature; at other times it reflects the pensivemeanderings of Wayne Shorter. Consider the third track “Mean Irene,” which showcases thedelicate web of melodic patterns and phrases of Dudzienski’s improvisations. It is clear the tenorist has done his homework, not just with Henderson and Bergonzi but with Warne Marsh and Mark Turner as well. The angular, rhythmically erratic improvisational style is the vanguard nowadays; what was once Joe Henderson’s cross to bear is now the coin of the realm. It is indeed refreshing to hear a saxophonist absorb and reinterpret this approach using their own voice. The rhythm section is happy to follow Dudzienski down this jutting path – they are clearly more comfortable letting him take the lead.
The title track “La Luna” features the saxophonist on soprano in a thoughtful yet engaginginterplay with the rhythm section. Again Dudzienski plants a foot in the history of the instrument while forging his own identity. His soprano is round and husky, its presence felt strongly without pushing. There is a softness, a roundness to his sound reminiscent of Branford Marsalis, but not without intensity. Of particular note is the saxophonist’s approach to the soprano. He plays it with a fresh set of ideas and themes, rather than as an extension of his tenor playing.
The standout track on La Luna is “Rain on Cobbles.” A brooding ballad, Dudzienski swings hardwhile developing a constant stream of melodic patterns. The rhythm section, not always lockedin as a trio, seems to shine on this record when their leader is prodding them into action. “Rain on Cobbles” is a perfect example – the band follows and reacts to Dudzienski in exciting ways. On the whole they seem much more comfortable interacting with the saxophone forging the path.
The heavy-swinging “Mr. Brydge” gives us an idea of the saxophonist’s power. His tenor is energetic without biting. He channels Stan Getz a bit on “Route 24” without falling into outrightimitation. The flexibility of his timbre is evident, a nice dichotomy with “Mr. Byrdge.” “Route 24” is lush and flowing, perfectly at home in a cigar shop as well as a nightclub.
The only criticism of the album is the occasional timidity of the rhythm section. Pianist Francisco D’Errico is a masterful harmonic player, and his introduction on his own composition“Close To Open/Open To Close” is alternately chippy and maudlin, while the other two compositions he contributed are equally as sophisticated. When the rest of the rhythm section kicks in they never seem to lock in unless Dudzienski is lighting the road. Even that criticism, however, speaks to the talents of the group – I wanted to hear them more!
La Luna is a fine album showcasing a saxophonist in command of his instrument and his improvisations. The variety of moods elicited speak to someone in tune with the history of the music and the instrument. From aggressive attacks to meaningful, deliberate whispers Dudzienski has mastered them all. He brings them full force on La Luna; yet another exemplary Chicago saxophonist with an outstanding piece of work.
- Bob Fuson