Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra--Thar They Blow

Category: Music

The first thing that should be said about this album is "wow". Now with that out of the way I'll tell you why. The Nuclear Whales are probably one of the most inventive and talented ensembles creating music today. I think there are around 6 contrabass saxophones accouned for in the world today, the Nuclear Whales have one of them. They also have a bari, tenor, alto, soprano, and sopranino and they play them all extremely well.
When it comes time to pick out an audition CD for a new equipment purchase or to get someone new hooked on quality audio (wink wink), this is the CD I invariably reach for.
Brilliant music, every saxophone ever produced, played masterfully and recorded live directly to two tracks of musical nirvana. You can hear the air of the concert hall, the click of the keys, even a grunt here and there when they really get rolling. These kids record everything in two takes or less and man can they rock. Wow.
The material on the album ranges from string quartets arranged for saxophone orchestra, to jazz standards, to totally original compositions that are probably the showcase tunes on the recording. Simply breathtaking. The most fun tune on the record, the Casbah Shuffle, which has a very dense and richly layered interplay between tablah drums and the saxophone ensemble really showcases the group's ability. Lots o' punch, lots o' finesse-perfect.
Do yourself a favor and buy this CD (unfortunaltely, it is not available on vinyl).
I read your review and recalled that I had their CD Whalin. I listened to this again and realized I liked it and purchased 3 more Nuclear Whales CD's to include "Thar She Blows", "Gone Fission" and "Isotopia" from Half Bay after looking on ebay. Whalin' is an early NWSO CD from 1989 and like most of them is a collection of old chestnuts arranged for and played on the saxaphone. I think that this is the most effective collection of the group although the recording is less focused than the 90's CD's. "Thar She Blows" and "Gone Fission" are not quite as consistent IMHO. For instance "Thar She Blows" starts off with "Fanfare for the Common Man" and I don't think many people would think that this is the best or even the second or third best version of this piece. In this case the honking sound of the saxaphone just doesn't convey the same feeling as the clarion call of the trumpet sounding out. Since the NWSO are a fine group of musicians it is usually the less than perfect adaptability of the piece that causes it to not quite gel. Mostly though they are good and enjoyable. My favorite CD besides "Whalin" is "Isopotia" which is written entirely by the NWSO themselves particularly Art Springs, the bass saxaphone player. These are jazzy tunes very appropriate to the group played in a breezy fun manner that is entertaining. Thanks to Rrayda for reminding me about this unusual group that I had forgotten.