Elements: Saturn Return
Illumination (Novus 3031-2-N)
Bill Evans (sax), Clifford Carter (keyboards), Stan Samole (guitar).
Composed by Mark Egan, Danny Gottlieb, Bill Evans & Clifford Carter.
Recorded: New York, August 1987
Rating: 91/100 (learn more)
The group Elements was assembled in the early '80s by drummer Danny Gottlieb and bassist Mark Egan, who had met during their tenure in the Pat Metheny Group. The band was formed to showcase their musical ideas outside of their more common roles as respected sidemen. Egan and Gottlieb have always considered Elements to be purveyors of a type of experimental music. Since its founding, the band – using a rotating cast of outstanding musicians around the core of Egan and Gottlieb – has toured extensively and released 11 albums. Illumination is among the best of those releases.
"Experimental" would be an apt description of "Saturn Return." Much of Elements' personality is derived from Egan's fretless bass. On "Saturn Return" it is the dominant melodic instrument. This performance is more of a soundscape than a fully realized tune. But the piece is so filled with ambience that the end result is both interesting and pleasing. A simple 5-note riff, played in unison by all of the instrumentalists, serves as the main character of the piece. (Though for the life of me, I cannot hear sax player Evans). The engaging riff, so precisely played it could be mistaken for a computer loop, can be heard from start to end. It serves as both rhythm and theme. Egan slides up and down on his fretless, applying soothing colors as Gottlieb provides texture. The pace is slow and steady, but there are many divergent things to listen to. At just over three minutes, and seeming like only one, "Saturn Return" is a very alluring diversion.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky
Tags: 1980s jazz