October 2006

John Flanders & Double Helix
Natural Selection
Squidisc

John Flanders is a young, talented saxophonist who seems to be searching for a niche. Despite exploring a variety of grooves and feels, he doesn’t find it here. The problem is two-fold. First, there’s the disparity between Flanders’ rough-hewn improvising style and the smooth jazz backing. Flanders is a passionate, blood-and-guts guy. His funk-based rhythm section is coolly professional. The combination doesn’t work very well. His gruff hyperactivity is simply too jarring in this context.

The second involves Flanders’ tunes. Too many of his melodies don’t meld with the harmonies. It’s as if the melody was written as an afterthought, tacked onto the fussy harmonic structure. Neither Flanders nor the other chief soloist, guitarist Pat Terry, seems comfortable playing over the more complex progressions. Were Flanders to muss things up a bit—ditch the electronic instruments and the slick production values, for one thing; simplify his compositional style by dialing up the melody and dialing down the knotty progressions, for another—he might be a musician to reckon with. As it stands, this is an uneven effort, at best.

Originally published in October 2006
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