BRUCE SAUNDERS QUINTET 8X5 Mel Bay Records
Dick Crockett "The Voice" 88.7FM Sacramento
Guitarist Bruce Saunders is the art of imaginative realism and definitive high end concept thinking on guitar. Originally a Floridian, Saunders, whose love and discipline to jazz has elevated his music to the best in residence in the New York jazz scene since the late 80's. Saunders has achieved the status as musician, composer and educator at Berklee School of Music. So by the time you hear "Squib," you're aware that Bruce Saunders is a proficient guitar master on all tunes here, especially in the fast changing and very facile "Squib" in deep melodic inlays, in other rich melodic templates as "Grim," with very intimate opening lines, Saunders creates an ultimate Jim Hall articulation. "Keyed In," a soft Getzian"Litany" with saxophonist Adam Kolker and trombonist Alex Ferber. The Bruce Saunders quintet is articulate, inventive with a bright brim mosaic, a well grounded port of call- as you listen to the unfolding- as they make it all count with minimal discretion. True artistry at work.
Bruce Saunders | Mel Bay Records (2006)
By John Barron (All About Jazz)
The evolving jazz musician is one who refuses to rest on past laurels. The examples of Miles Davis and John Coltrane quickly come to mind as stalwarts on a never ending quest for fresh sounds. Even with a handful of releases under his own name and an impressive list of sideman credentials, jazz guitarist Bruce Saunders fits the mold of a musician intent on expanding his comfort zone.
On 8x5, Saunders, with Gibson 335 in hand, explores the potential of his instrument without abandoning its more endearing traditional aspects. Joined by saxophonist Adam Kolker, trombonist Alan Ferber, drummer Mark Ferber and bassist Mike McGuirk, the Berklee College of Music instructor leads his quintet through a rigorous, yet spirited set of his own unique compositions, firmly rooted in progressive mainstream sounds.
Saunders writes well-conceived melodies supported by clever harmony and counterpoint. The interplay between guitar, saxophone and trombone results in sound textures that are engaging and creatively out-of-the-ordinary. The disc's underlying grooves range from samba-inspired (”Two Piers”), contemporary funk (”Squib,” “Half Right”), odd-metered (”Half Right”) and straight-ahead swing (”Stately”).
Saunders' approach to improvisation is highlighted by spontaneity and unpredictability. He solos with technical command on “Two Piers” and “Stately,” while exhibiting a soft-edged linear approach on the Pat Metheny-sounding “Keyed In” and the pseudo-bossa “Litany.” His adeptness at playing chord-melody style is demonstrated on the somber ballad “Grim.”
Much more than a showcase for Saunders' lucid guitar playing, 8x5 negotiates a forward-thinking approach to the guitar's place within the confines of a jazz ensemble. Saunders' vitality is a welcome presence in the often over-hyped, over-crowded world of jazz guitar.
"8 x 5"
Guitarist Bruce Saunders performs a set of his complex originals on 8X5. Saunders has a warm tone and his music challenges and inspires the other musicians. Adam Kolker's style on tenor is a bit reminiscent of Michael Brecker (particularly on "Two Piers") without being derivative. Trombonist Alan Ferber blends in well and the interplay between Saunders, bassist Mike McGuirk and drummer Mark Ferber keeps the music stimulating and unpredictable. There is plenty of variety in tempos and moods, with "Grim" being purposely downbeat, "Another Happy Drinking Song" being properly ragged, "Half Right" managing to be both complex and accessible and "Litany" having both a difficult set of chord changes and a joyous feel. Overall 8X5 is an intriguing and well-played set of modern jazz.
Review by Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
Tom Cohen CD "The Guitar Trio Project"
With Ben Monder, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Paul Bollenbeck, Rez Abbassi, Jef Lee Johnson
Cadence Jazz Magazine November, 2006
Bruce Saunders is new to me, but his thoughtful and understated reading of “Cherokee” (which could be lifted from a Paul Motian record, notably when Cohen works his cymbals like an expert colorist) is a delight. So too is his more knotty and dense playing on Joe Henderson’s “In N’ Out.”
Jazz Times November, 2006
One of the best-kept secrets of 'The Guitar Trio Project' is Bruce Saunders, an abundantly creative six-stringer who has been flying under the radar for the past 20 years on the New York scene. His slowed down, 5/4 rendition of 'Cherokee' and his odd intervallic leaping on Joe Henderson's 'In N' Out provide some high points here..."
The Alan Ferber Nonet "Scenes from an Exit Row"
Particularly impressive are Bruce Saunders on guitar and John Ellis on saxophone. Both light up the selections....
Downbeat February, 2006
Saunders impressive third outing as a leader is buoyed by a swinging, highly interactive rhythm section and fueled by a collective spirit of discovery. From a purely guitaristic perspective, this recording is notable for the sheer six-string virtuosity that Saunders exhibits from track to track.
“Strikingly original and melodic yet with virtuosic control. One of the best jazz CD’s to come along in years!”
(Swing Journal, July 1998)
"Forget Everything "
Bruce Saunders, a well known New York based guitarist, makes his debut as band leader with an all-star cast of musicians. Joining Bruce on "Forget Everything " are Jack DeJohnette on drums, Michael Cain on piano, Tony Scherr on bass, and the impeccable grooves of Dave Pietro on saxophone. It is a live studio recording which successfully captures the style and energy of New York style jazz. It starts off with a groove similar in feel to another live studio session in New York by Pat Metheny and Joshua Redman, but tends to be more free-form and spontaneous. Saunders is an accomplished guitarist in the realms of Mick Goodrick and John Abercrombie. He always maintains that edgy tension characteristic of the new school of players working downtown. Saunders guitar is perfectly augmented by the best drummer in the business, Jack DeJohnette, and Michael Cain who has toured with DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Robin Eubanks, Ray Anderson, and Bobby Previte. Throughout the album, one can always sense a keen awareness and interplay between the guitar, piano, and saxophonist Dave Pietro. The group really interacts well in a live situation, and is one of the best live studio albums I've heard in the past two years. It is an album of exceptional substance that really hums from the first measures of the album, to the last drifting solo of "Big Sky ". All in all, this a very impressive debut as a front man.
http://www.alternatemusicpress.com/reviews/ reviews Tuesday, December 21, 1999
Melodic Improvising for Guitar (book)
Your book "Melodic improvising" was recommended to me by Corey Christiansen (editor of mel bay). Maybe my opinion doesn't amount to much in the world of master guitarist' but I really have learned alot from it. I live in Asuncion, Paraguay and I am one of the few jazz guitarists here. My only lessons are from your book lately and I have just expanded my playing greatly with the lessons. Thats all nothing more. Please keep up the great work, it keeps me going.
Strange Pursuit was a band that I played with for a few years in the late 90's. It was Eric Halvorson (drums), Bruce Huron (saxophone) and me. Eric and Bruce are two really great musicians and it was always a joy to play with them. We did two or three tours of the U.S. and recorded two CD's; "The Zone" and "Fifth House". "The Zone" was recorded at Park West studios in Brooklyn by Jim Clouse and "Fifth House" at Avatar by James Farber. Our good friend Tony Scherr produced "Fifth House". The following reviews were from the tours.
MINNEAPOLIS CITY PAGES
168 hours (A Critical Guide) Thursday Strange Pursuit
A terrific New York trio, Strange Pursuit features homeboy sax man and Artist's Quarter favorite Bruce Huron, in his first TC appearance since splitting for New York. Huron's been woodshedding, that's for sure. The originals on Strange Pursuits new CD, The Zone, are bristling aiid stellar-a fine combination of force and finesse. Without a piano player, these bold guys tackle and nail works by Thelonious Monk, Jimmy Rowles and Keith Jarrett. And without lyrics, their take on Tom Waits' "Good Olc World" still picks a Boho-on-a-bender wallop. The Zone is a wonderful CD, full of fiery distorted guitar zind driving drums, played by Bruce Saunders and Eric Halvorson, respectively.
CADENCE JAZZ MAGAZINE
The Zone, Red Hook
Trinkle, Tinkle / I've Never Been in Love Before /The Peacocks/ Good Old World /The Windup /The Zone / Never Better
Visits from Monk, Jimmy Rowles, Frank Loesser, Keith Jarrett, and Tom Waits situate this trio interestingly. I guess it's comparable to the way a similarly constructed trio like BABKAS (11/93, p.92) situates themselves amidst Balkan music, free bop, post punk energy. Because Bruce Saunders' guitar is crunchy and distortion-laden on "Trinkle, Tinkle," and then drips strums and clean notes like Jim Hall on "I've Never Been In Love Before." Likewise, Bruce Huron blasts out in the Monk number with overblown energy and then dips into the lover's bag for the Loesser number. They continue this multifacetedness on Jimmy Rowles' impressionistic "The Peacocks" and on Waits'"Good Old World."
This disk spins on an axis that shifts from player to player. Rhythm roles are distributed and shared; solo spots take shape according to the changing rhythmic accompaniment, The postpunk excess in tone works nicely juxtaposed to the polish of the ballads. Keith Jarrett's "The Windup" appears here wound up tightly only to be spiralled before the trio close out with three of their own contributions, all stunning in a traditionally rooted but energetically routed tour de musique that exudes intensity. In a word freebop, at a height comparable to most bassless freebop available.
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE/ STRANGE PURSUIT
This CD is what jazz fans would call a "smoker" - a dynamic, driving, exciting, modern and often intense session. Even the romantic ballads are full of sustained tension and drama. Strange Pursuit is a New York-based trio featuring exMinnesotan Bruce Huron on white hot saxophones, aggressive electric guitarist Bruce Saunders and the punchy drumming of Eric Halvorson. "The Zone features a steamrolling version of Theloniobs Monk's "Trinkle, Tinkle," Jimmy Rowles'lovely ballad, "The Peacocks" and a Keith Jarrett piece that comes off sounding more like Ornette Coleman. Toss in a Skid Row gutbucket blues by Tom Waits and some excellent originals , and "The Zone" is one of the year's best jazz discs. Strange Pursuit will perform Thursday at the Dakota Bar and Grill in St. Paul.
THE CHICAGO READER
This young trio of sax, guitar and drums has chosen an appropriate name for its endeavor: performing a repertoire of classic and original jazz tunes with this rather unorthodox instrumentation is a Strange pursuit indeed. But on their recent debut The Zone (Red Hook) they prove their obvious musicianship and an even more obvious commitment to this rarefied sound of theirs. Think of the band as a chamber-music trio for the postmodern set. As it turns out you'll hear plenty more of the same instrumentation this summer courtesy of another band-the Charlie Hunter Trio-who have just released a hot new album of their own. But Hunters trio begs the issue: the leader plays both boss lines and solos-simultaneously and quite astounding on his eight-string guitar and the band has a conventional anchoring bottom to its sound. In Strange Pursuit you'll find neither a bassist nor bass lines which accounts for the wide open and even rootless cast of its sonic profile. When guitarist Bruce Saunders solos against Eric Halvorsons drums it seems like a prelude to the next event; and even though both musicians emphasize the lower timbres of their instruments when saxophonist Bruce Huron enters the picture they still sound more like a duo with a hitchhiker rather than a fully integrated trio. You keep waiting for the rest of the band to kick in and its that anticipation that keeps listeners so determinedly (and) deliciously off balance. By thwarting expectations with this seemingly incomplete lineup Strange Pursuit get to start from scratch allowing them to redefine the musical menu quite literally from top to bottom.
Sunday 8 PM HotHouse 1565 N Milwaukee
NEIL TESSER / THE MADISON ISTHMUS
This New York jazz trio has offbeat instrumentation (guitar, Sax, drums), an eclectic book (Monk, Tom Waits, Frank Loesser) and a postniodern mindset, often taking its material delightfully over the top. Fri., July 7, Paramount MusiC
THE A LIST
TWIN CITIES READER
Minneapolis native and saxophonist Bruce Huron returns from New York for one show to promote his new CD, The Zone (Red Hook). True to it's name, Strange Pursuit is slightly unconventional-a Sax, guitar, and drum trio exploring Monk, Jarrett and Tom Waits. The group's jumpy originals are characteristic of adventurous yet grounded guitar-driven postbop. (Guitarist Bruce Saunders has kept pretty good company in leading a recording session with Jack DeJohnette and pianist Mike Cain.) $8. 8 pm Dakota Bar and Grill, Bandana Sq. St. Paul
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
There'sjust nothing at all strange about Pursuits talent
Some jazz musicians may be content playing music hardly anyone understands in places hardly anyone knows about, but not Bruce Huron. "I'd really like to reach an audience," says the Twin Cities-born tenor saxophonist. "In fact, I'm looking for ways to draw people into my music. But I want to do it in a sincere way by challenging and not patronizing them." Huron, 32, is a member of Strange Pursuit, a New York City trio per forming in St. Paul tonight as part of the group's first extensive tour. Strange Pursuit, which is less than 2 years old, also includes guitarist Bruce Saunders and drummer Eric Halvorson, and can be heard on a self-produced CD, "The Zone" (Red Hook Records).It was recorded in September 1993, in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, where Huron lives, only three months after the three first played together. "Saunders and Halvorson had a trio with a bassist. One night, he couldn't make the gig and they called me" Huron explains. "We had not preconceptions that night, so we just did some blowing and found that there was a hookup there, some common ground, especially rhythmically. It felt good to play together." Strange Pursuit ("We're a cooperative group, so we wanted a name other than ours") has been performing in New York and, on this tour, will stop in Cleveland; Chicago; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Iowa City, Iowa; and Madison, Wis. The trio's music may or may not be able to find the audience Huron seeks because, by his own admission, it is not easily categorized stylistically-a definite handicap in today's marketing oriented music world. 'Yeah, it's tough to pigeonhole," says Huron. "It's not avant-garde, and it's not straight ahead. Some critics have been calling it'freebop,'and I guess that'll have to do until we can come up with some thing better." The strangest thing about Strange Pursuit is the instrumentation-sax, guitar (electric and acoustic) and drums-though there are several groups with that kind of pianoless and/or bassiess lineup. Perhaps the best known comprises saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Paul Motian. "Yeah, I've had some concern that it might be felt that we're copying Lovano and those guys, when we aren't," says Huron.
THE JAZZ WORLD MAGAZINE
vol 5 no. 3 july 1995
Strange Pursuit-the zone
Red Hook Records 1003
Bruce Huron, saxophone; Bruce Saunders, guitar; Eric Halvorson, drums
Hey, who needs a bass player anyway? This Brooklyn, New York trio has fire, fullness, and creativity. They cover charts from Jimmy Rowles, Monk, Tom Waits, and Keith Jarret and play some well-composed originals. Although the composers of these charts come from a wide range of musical backgrounds, Strange Pursuit melds all together in a cohesive manner. One major rule in a bassless group is to fill in any empty space the mind of the listener might conceive. This is achieved here by each member adding fills and new improvised lines through the melodies of each cut. Bruc;(-,, Huron has a classic, fullbodied tenor Sax sound. Bruce Saunders fills in throughout the recording with electric and acoustic guitars. Eric Halvorson uses the drums with integrity as a canvas on which the lead instruments paint their pictures. Overall, my favorite tunes are "Trinkle, Trinkle" by Monk, "Good Old World" by Tom Waits, and "The Zone" by Bruce Huron.
THE IOWA CITY CITIZEN
Bassless jazz trio brings their first tour to Iowa City by Molly Cashman
On the fourth of July the fireworks display is decidedly the highlight of the weekend. This year it will have some competition. Strange Pursuit, a New York based jazz trio will introduce Iowa City to an extravaganza of free-bop jazz with a twist: They'll be playing without a bass.With University of Iowa School of Music graduate Eric Halvorson on drums, Bruce Saunders on guitar and Bruce Huron on saxophone this trio creates a creative and complex view of jazz rife with attitude. The deletion of the bass line is not a new concept but is the way these three performers approach this genre without boundaries. "We didn't set out to form a band without a bass," explained Halvorson. "It just happened. "Strange Pursuit's arrangement transformation occurred just before an engagement in a rough part of Brooklyn. In the tradition of Bill Frisell and the Paul Motion Trio, the group discovered the freedom associated with optional instrumentation and decided to embark on a conceptual transformation, continuing as trio. "No bass part means that everyone in the group has to assume an equal part of the missing line. Not necessarily to fill up the absence in traditional manner, but to rhythmically define and augment the piece:'said Halvorson. "Many bands tend to rely on the bass to play the root of the musical line and often times, to initiate the chord movements. Our arrangement frees up the music from those expectations and allows us to try new combinations-new ideas. It's what can make us unique."
This diversification of rhythmic blends and textures can be heard throughout the band's first release, The Zone. The CD exhibits an eclectic mix of tunes by Thelonius Monk, Keith Jarrett, Frank Loesser and Tom Waits, as well as several original pieces. The mixture of straight-ahead jazz favorites, swing classics and contemporary jazz pieces displays the band's commitment to their new arrangement and to pursuing all the creative avenues where it may lead them.
Halvorson (whose musical history includes performances with Paul Smoker, Conrad Herwig and a recent three-week tour of Europe with the avant-guard jazz group The Lilly White Quintet) proves what an excellent colorist he is on the canvas of percussion that is the track of "The Peacocks."
Bruce Huron spouts his lyrical skills on the long, tender melody of "The Peacocks" and croons warm energy during the Monk numbers. The free, open tone Huron releases during "I've Never Been In Love Before," a straight-ahead swing jazz number, recalls his background such performing greats as Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Tom Harrell and Bobby McFerrin.
Strange Pursuit will perform at The Sanctuary, Fri. June 30 and Sat. July 1 at 9:30 pm. They will also be opening the Iowa City Jazz Festival in downtown Iowa City.