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Photos by Roger Cullman
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Colin Stetson at the Great Hall, Sunday May 19. Rating: NNNN
No matter how familiar you are with his work, seeing Colin Stetson perform live still provokes gobsmacked amazement at the sheer virtuosity of his physically demanding approach to solo saxophone.
It's almost distracting seeing his face turn red as he churns out lightning-fast spiralling arpeggios, using circular breathing to conjure up a continuous undulating wall of sound while simultaneously singing eerie counter-melodies into his horn and providing a thumping rhythm section from the clacking of the valves.
In an age when so much music is built from circuitry and computer programming, the novelty of a solo performer basing his approach on pushing the limits of his body is almost gimmicky, were the music itself not so entrancing.
That transcendental aspect is even more apparent in the material from his most recent album, New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light, which often evokes the uplifting spirituality of gospel music tackled from an avant-garde angle. If only more experimental music were this joyfully cathartic to experience.