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Keefe Jackson’s Likely So: A Round Goal

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Chicago tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson has worked in groups large and small, among them the all-saxophone 774th Street Quartet. With his unit Likely So, he pushes that concept further. The group consists of a clarinetist and six saxophonists (three doubling on various clarinets) who utilize that entire family of horns, from sopranino to contrabass. Aside from some droning harmonium on one track, there isn’t a rhythm section in sight. Of course such instruments would be superfluous with this range of sounds.

Recorded last February at the Jazzwerkstatt Festival in Switzerland, the group includes Jackson’s Chicago peers Mars Williams (alto, soprano, sopranino) and Dave Rempis (alto, baritone); Poland’s Waclaw Zimpel (B-flat and alto clarinets); and Switzerland’s Thomas K.J. Mejer (contrabass and sopranino), Peter A. Schmid (bass, baritone and sopranino; bass and B-flat clarinets) and Marc Stucki (tenor, bass clarinet). At times it sounds like the group’s harmonies utilize at least five octaves. In “Pastorale,” Jackson’s charts feel lush and almost Ellingtonian, with the bass clarinets extending the already rich sound. At other points, the low horns cavort with some upper-register chatter (“Roses”) or work together in a choppy theme (“Overture”).

Players like this naturally throw some good-natured squonks into the mix, always a temptation with those low horns. At the same time Mejer shows the lighter side to his lumbering sax on “My Time Is My Own,” where he evokes a bowed bass. A few tunes lose some impact due to their repetitive foundations. But the highly original solos from the likes of Stucki (“Was ist Kultur?”) and Williams (“Round Goal”) breathe fire that overcomes the static background.

Originally Published