apr - may - june 2008 | cadence |

Sam Phipps
AnImal Sounds

I can’t say the same for (3) Sam Phipps’ re-release of the obscure
1980 Animal Sounds. Nothing is superfluous, not even the bonus cuts
from a 1982 radio broadcast, which are very nice. Who is Sam Phipps?
He may be best known as a reedman in the ‘80s New Wave Rock group
Oingo Boingo. That music has little to do with this recording, however.
He is a hard-blowing, big tenorist. Clearly Coltrane has influenced
him. He also reminds of early Sonny Simmons and Bert Wilson for the
intensity and fire he brings to the group. John Larkin has pianism in
abundance, with obvious influences in Cecil Taylor and McCoy Tyner.
The rhythm section churns and drives with sincerity and dedication.
Dissonant late Tyner comping from Larkin sets off Phipps’ high energy
playing on the opening “Elevation.” Larkin’s solo burns brightly as well.
The free ballad “Mystery” brings in Larkin’s Cecilish excursions while
Phipps sounds like an earthy, less tightly embouchured Coltrane. It builds
to a rhapsodic froth that asserts originality within the eclectic structural
framework invoked. An out-of-time, slightly dissonant rubato with a wash
of cymbals and long tenor lines mark “Decision.” “One On One” follows
with a bass-tenor duet. Young’s mid-up walking sets up Phipps’ tenor,
which in turn deftly explores out Freebop phrasings, with just a hint of a
Sam Rivers tone.
A nice change of pace follows with the multi-tracked “Animal
Sounds.” It’s all Phipps in a sax quintet. Soprano, alto, tenor, baritone
and bass saxes take a freely articulated romp through avenues of multi-
valent aural fun. The album proper ends with solo tenor in a tribute to
the great Ben Webster. The latter-penned “Woke Up Clipped” forms a bit
of a tour de force for Sam’s rapidly moving lines and then onto Webster’s
snaky melody played with respect and charm. Ben was such a giant and
Sam shows his appreciation.
The remaining tracks come from a 1982 radio broadcast and feature
Phipps with Larkin and in a solo mode. It is all quite nice. “Silent Night”
(yes, the Christmas song) is given a quite beautiful treatment, the melody
stated lyrically by Phipps with a Tyner-like piano wash underneath. I cer-
tainly wasn’t aware of this recording until now and its reissue forms one
of the highlights of what I’ve heard for the new year thus far. It’s a little
out, and it is a little classic. Snag it now. These sorts of re-releases don’t
always stay around long.

Grego Applegate Edwards

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