Should you buy it?:
What I liked most:
“Saxophobia” on sopranino sax. “Cute” on contrabass sax. “Mood Indigo” on
slide sax. (Hey, it’s worth it just to hear slide sax on a feature-length
What I liked least:
Somewhat simple tone on odd instruments (Conn-O-Sax, contrabass, C Melody). Remakes
of tunes from sax greats.
One of the distinctly nice things about being me is that people send me a lot
of saxophone-related stuff.
A few years back, Mr. Rob Verdi contacted
me and asked if I wanted to go see a concert that he’d be in; he had a bunch of
kewl saxophones that I had never seen in person, the concert was essentially
around the corner from where I live and he’d even pay for the ticket.
It was a very good concert.
Somewhat after that, Mr. Verdi sent me a
copy of his CD, Prose and CONNversations, to review.
Free concerts, free CDs? What’s not to
like? I just want people to start sending me free saxophones, mouthpieces,
reeds, necks and stands.
However, I have to review the stuff I get. Life can be tough.
There are at least two parts to review on
this particular CD: entertainment value (is the CD fun to listen to?) and
historical value (is the CD worthy of being in your library because of the
Qualified “yes” on both parts.
In my opinion, there are two major flaws on
this CD: the first is some of the concept and the second is some of the execution.
Note that it’s definitely “some”, not all.
My biggest disappointment is that the cover
of the CD features Mr. Verdi with 40 instruments. He doesn’t play all of them
on the CD, though. That’s a pity. I really wanted to hear some Rothophone.
The playing on the CD definitely isn’t bad
and some of the pieces are very nice, from any point of view. For instance, I
really liked listening to “Saxophobia”, as arranged for sopranino saxophone (I
had seen Mr. Verdi perform this at the above-mentioned concert): it’s well
played and not overly fast. Unfortunately, only this, “Cute” (played on
contrabass sax) and “Mood Indigo” (played on slide sax) are the pieces where
you sit up and really take notice. The other pieces are well played, but just
not really “remarkable” or “outstanding”.
On some pieces the concept seems to have
been, “Let’s take a piece of music made popular by someone and play the piece
on the saxophone that the famous person played it on!” For instance, Paul
Desmond played “Take 5” on a Selmer Mark VI alto, so Mr. Verdi takes out his
Mark VI alto and plays “Take 5”. Unfortunately for Mr. Verdi, I think a lot of
people that would buy this CD already have in their minds what these pieces
should sound like and – again, even though the playing is fairly good – will
say something like I did: “That’s not the way Desmond played ‘Take 5’ on Time
Further, while I do not claim to be an
expert bass, Conn-O-Sax or C melody player, I have played all of these and have
heard a few other musicians play them, too. Mr. Verdi’s bass sounds like a bari with a longer range, his Conn-O-Sax
sounds a lot like an alto and his C melody sounds a lot like a Bb tenor. I
have heard other players play these horns in the same way, so I’ll no longer
call this style of playing “wrong”, it definitely doesn’t show the color these
horns are capable of: the bass is much more gruff than the bari and the Conn-O-Sax and the C melody
have a beautiful, sweet double-reed tone.
Finally, I want to mention that there are
several spelling and factual errors in the liner notes for the CD and companion
pamphlet (some of the corrections being “ophicleide”, “Sarrusophone”, “Reiffel
and Husted” -- and the saxophone was patented on June 22, 1846). I’ve e-mailed
Mr. Verdi with some of those corrections and he said that he’d try to get the
printer to correct them in the next printing.
Again, this is a good CD to get and I
encourage you to do so. The playing isn’t bad and hearing a slide sax in a
feature-length piece is priceless. However, I’d also encourage you to listen
to the original recordings by Parker, Coltrane, Desmond and others, too.