“...hear lightening burst from Mandyck's tenor, illuminating the heavens with bolts of melody, while Keplinger's drums crash and roll ubiquitous thunder.”
Jason West, Earshot Jazz
Non-stop pedal-to-the-metal creativity here. Saxophone/drum duo albums don't exactly overflow the store shelves, but these two intense artists bring a bold, headstrong urgency to a journey through perilously naked terrain.
Works of art come in differing dimensions, but Tribute proves that one tenor saxophonist and one drummer, given sufficient talent, imagination and guts, can make music as richly satisfying as any ensemble. The jazz of this CD cries out I am, I must, but it just as readily explores hidden secrets, including those perilous ones of the heart. Either way, Rick Mandyck and Gregg Keplinger charge right in, forsaking frills, niceties and gracious introductions.
This outpouring of coiled energy puts the proper spotlight on two exemplary "jazz lifers." Mandyck, whose imagination and range of saxophone vocabulary, from slurs and screams to tender lyricism, match any player anywhere, spent years making music on Seattle street corners, finally emerging to some recognition in the mid-'90s. His remarkable work on Tribute may be his saxophone valedictory, however. An injury does not currently allow him to play the instrument -- so he has picked up the guitar, a new axe on which he is already making his mark. (A chosen few are like that.)
Keplinger, power personified, is captured here as never before. Better known as a guru, collector, designer and purveyor of drums and cymbals than for his rare public performances, his fearless playing perfectly offsets Mandyck. He can be torrential, densely polyrhythmic, or the most challenging of accompanists. What he can't do is be the self-effacing routinier. Together, these two iconoclastic virtuosi open new territory, revealing a stormy, eerily beautiful musical world where they and their listeners seem remarkably at home.