Tabs Out | Christopher Brett Bailey – Sax Offender

Christopher Brett Bailey – Sax Offender

1.29.20 by Ryan Masteller

I first had mixed feelings about Christopher Brett Bailey’s “Sax Offender,” a title so off-putting that I almost didn’t even give it a chance, what with its proximity to this MF-ing Bleeding Gums Murphy record (he looks so sad!) and probably also Herb Alpert’s “Whipped Cream” (that lady looks less sad). Also the track titles are all double entendres – “Sax Pest”? I wish! And then there’s the jail-cell sleeve this thing comes in, giving the whole thing a very retro, outdated vibe: “Maybe I should be in jail … lock up your saxophones …”

But OMG – could that be the point?

Bailey, a London-based writer and artist otherwise (and with that fantastic haircut, what else could he be?!), is a sax caresser, the opposite of a sax manhandler, but in a totally non-creepy way, which makes the whole “Sax Offender” thing a bit lighter, a bit winkier and noddier than some people may realize at first. He’s certainly not heaving “saxily” into that mouthpiece and hoping the spit valve holds out for the duration of a performance. On the contrary, he’s running his instrument through “reverb, octave, and three loop pedals,” layering sound upon sound and drone upon drone until the soup’s so thick you can eat it with a fork. This is EXPERIMENTAL saxophone playing, and not even remotely close to Colin Stetson or anything like that.

So Bailey sets the mood, and maintains the mood, over five fairly lengthy pieces. Only the sub-two-minute “Sax Criminal” ventures into “traditional” playing, with a fairly straightforward (albeit effect-drenched) run tiptoeing into standard noir territory. But the rest is a fever dream, a Black Lodge mist of proto-Badalamenti swamp tone that swirls around itself until you’re not sure where you are or what year this is. Somebody get Dean Hurley on the phone. Bailey’s playing is as natural as breathing, and it will mesmerize you until you can’t tell friend from foe, or even if there were any friends or foes to begin with (there didn’t have to be). 

You still weirded out? Don’t be. Get hip to Christopher Brett Bailey. On Pastel Heck. “Only 50 copies available!”

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