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Dan Pinson: South of the Border

Phoenix-based multi-wind player and educator Dan Pinson proves that he can rock and squeal with any saxophonist out there on South of the Border (Alto 10012; 51:23), which is why it seems odd that the collaboration with Mexican ensemble Via Libre lacks a distinctive feel. Songs like album-opener “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me” are pleasant, with a very slight Latin attitude, but come across as somewhat tinny and ordinary. This feeling may have to do more with the arrangements than the performances, as electronic, wedding-band sounding keyboards hold back the effects of Pinson’s snaking soprano on “Alguna Idea” and keeps a cover of “I Remember Clifford” somewhat dull and emotionless. The other potentially problematic factor is that Pinson is essentially a live player, who likes to improvise brash runs. In a treble-heavy mix of “Intensidad,” Pinson whirls phrases easily…yet the piece is difficult to listen to on record, but probably sounds great live. Though this debut release (on Pinson’s own indie label) has some ragged edges, there’s definitely potential to build on.

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