If you look at a list of people Tom Waits has played with, it becomes a who’s who of some of the most talented, and unique, players alive today. Let’s go over some of the less common names on that list, shall we? Marc Ribot (in many fields this man is considered a golden god), Greg Cohen (played with: Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, Tricky, Donovan, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, etc.), John Lurie (Soundtracks: Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law, Get Shorty), Larry Taylor (Jesus, hold up, there’s too much), Robert Quine (Wait, what? Why are we still doing this?), Kenny Wollesen (Slow the fuck down!) Will Bernard (Fuck, I can’t keep up.), and Charlie Musselwhite (Okay. This needs to be said. This is the inspiration for Dan Aykroyd in Blues Brothers. A true badass.) Also Keith Richards (yes, that one), Flea, and John Hammond Jr.
Tom waits has the same approach many exceptional musical leaders have. Hire the greatest and quirkiest players on earth and throw them in one room. Give them sheet music and say, “Do what you want. You’re the experts,” then step back and become one of the greatest artists of all time. If Tom Waits was your hockey coach, he would hire an 18-ton drilling rig and an ex-marine pro-female bodybuilder kicked out of the Olympics for drinking what she calls “crack in water form” as well as having a dick. These are your defenceman. Your goalie? A 12-foot Icelandic boulder. The man is here to win. Also on this list? Colin Stetson. He plays the saxophone. But it’s nothing like you’ve ever heard before.
Heard of Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio, Feist, Bon Iver, Lou Reed, The National, Sinéad O’Connor, Animal Collective, David Byrne, and The Chemical Brothers… Ya, this guy rocked his sax on their albums too. He’s taken the saxophone into a whole other dimension. On his albums he uses no dubbing or looping, but that’s hard to believe when you hear him play. With some well-placed microphones and his fingers, he makes that thing sound unlike anything I’ve ever heard. He can circular breathe for the saxophone. As in, he doesn’t need to stop to take a breath in, just in through the nose and out the mouth. Try it. Seriously, it’s fucking impossible. He makes microtones, microphonics, altissimo (or what I call squeakily squeaks), he growls in the shit, hits valves, makes clickity clackers clacking clack. Fuck, he would set it on fire and piss on it if he thought it would sound good. Does this mean the album sounds like an experimental saxophonist trying random shit out? No, I like my ears without blood coming out of them, thank you very much. This is closer to an Autechre album than an experimental sax album. It’s got this brooding style of beat, these high ethereal sounding tones, these almost electronic sounding syncopated beats, keyboard sounding strings, rough and dirty bass lines with hard drums, and wicked guitar lines (By the way, all those sounds I just said are done with his saxophone).
This album will not change your life, but Colin Stetson is a name to pay attention to. He plays with giants and his solo stuff is incredible. He is an amazing example of human ingenuity. Give this guy a rock and he’ll learn how to make it a rocketship. Going through his discography is a trip. He has blown the ass out on what people believed could be done with his instrument. He can make the sound of monsters, seriously, like fucking skyscraper tall dinosaurs, and the sound of angels. It’s wonderful to hear. Colin Stetson battles a world of push-button sounds and autotune. All we have to do to join his battle is to listen and cheer him on.