John Klemmer: Quiet Afternoon

Reviewing this cut has given me the opportunity to check on something I have been wondering about for a couple of decades. What ever happened to John Klemmer? The popular and innovative sax player had virtually single-handedly introduced electronic effects, most notably the Echoplex, to the saxophone. The original Echoplex was ostensibly a tape-looping device that allowed Klemmer to riff against his own reverb. According to his website, Klemmer continues to use this effect to this day. But that's just it. I had to check his website to find this out. As his website's bio reveals, while Klemmer has been quite prolific over a long career, he has a habit of taking extended sabbaticals. These "breaks" may last several years. That is no way to maintain a commercial career that has drifted toward the pop world the last two decades, yet it is apparently how Klemmer finds peace of mind.

LifeStyle was the promise of a bright jazz and fusion future. Klemmer would be a good player without the effects, but their presence offered a unique and pleasing sound. His compositions were strong, and the band played them with confident ease. "Quiet Afternoon," written by Return To Forever bassist Stanley Clarke, has a delicate melody that is the antithesis of a typical fusion number. Klemmer plays it relaxed and cool for a while. The sound of his sax through the Echoplex is beautifully distinctive, as all that reverb hides the sound of his breathing. The midsection of the song calls for him to do some heavy lifting above a tasteful accompaniment, which he does impressively and effortlessly. The appealing opening strains return in all of their echoing glory.

It was nice to revisit this performance. If Klemmer had kept this up over the years, I would have visited many more times. But that is selfish on my part. An artist's soul is more important than any listener's needs.

March 26, 2008 · 3 comments


Previous Page | Next Page