Willamette – 2012

Willamette – rel.2012

What do you get when you mix punk, rock, a dash of metal and blend with an in your face baritone saxophone? Willamette, of course. This band is pushing the convention of baritone saxophone playing and kicking ass along the way. This is not some “Morphine” tribute group or a jazz quartet dabbling in the dark musical arts. This is a group of musicians with love of the style and desire to make it their way.

As is the norm with my reviews I have to address the tone Mat Rippetoe brings to the album. His baritone tone is full and loaded with power. It is not a pure tone as he is using many audio effects on the baritone sax. You may think that this would be a bad thing but in this case it works perfectly and is mostly transparent. The effect of his tonal modifications was to give his tone more edge and ability to stand along side the distorted guitar and punchy bass. Sure, he could have bought a mouthpiece that gave him punch, a Rico Metalite comes to mind, but at a cost to overall tone. His use of a Yanagisawa metal baritone mouthpiece was a good choice as it is a medium bright piece with loads of flexibility.

When I first heard Mat on the tune “Knots” I would have sworn that Ronnie Cuber had joined the group in that moment. His improvised solo was punchy, funky and the perfect Cuber’ish sound made the song my favorite on the album. This was one of many moments while listening to this album that I was genuinely surprised. The improvised solos by Mat and Yoshie Fruchter are appropriate and fit the metal music genre perfectly. The solos reflect their jazz education and their practiced metal and punk ears.

The things that bothered me about the album were more nit picky than anything else. Some songs across the album were a little cliched and though they were accurate to the general style of music at play they didn’t shine as brightly as some other. For example “Fonebone” didn’t have the intensity and “Dark Star” but was still a good song. The other mildly bothersome thing is the audio sound-stage sounds large due to an overly healthy dosage of reverb. This has a tendency to add body to the slightly annoying effects sizzle you hear at the top of the track. This doesn’t detract from the experience but when you listen with quality earphones it is present in the empty musical spaces.

Take Away: I truly hope that young people playing baritone saxophone listen and realize that with some imagination, preparation, and dedication they too can make great genre bending music. I wish these guys commercial success and that they start a mailing list so I will know when the next release is due.

You can buy their album on Itunes and directly from http://mrippetoe.bandcamp.com/album/willamette

Line up:
Matt Rippetoe – baritone saxophone
Yoshie Fruchter – guitar
Gary Pickard – bass
Dave Previ – drums