[No Man's Land Records,]

The Gospel Record: The Reference Edition

[Shaking Ray Records,]

Whether featured as a vocalist or a saxophone player, Amy Denio's projects have all been memorable. Her involvement with The [EC] Nudes [a trio she made up with Chris Cutler and Wadi Gysi - who incidentally were one of the best live acts at the 1994 edition of FIMAV in Victoriaville] and her hands-on involvement with The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet were both memorable. Further on, she was also involved with Curlew, where she beautifully interpreted Paul Haines' written work ["A Beautiful Western Saddle" on Cuneiform]. I also recall her wonderful bantering on Frank Pahl's "Romantic Side of Schizophrenia" release [Ponk Records]. All in all, Amy has truly been around and is not afraid to tackle any new challenges that may come her way.

"Tsunami" is one such new worthy effort. Recorded in a mere two day session [originally released on her own Spoot label], this is return to form for Amy and co. Featuring an all female cast on various brass instruments, "Tsunami" leaves off where The Billy Tipton Memorial Quartet left off. Continuing along the same lively inspired vibe, the record moves keenly between rough, danceable klezmer numbers, through to polka pieces [I kid you not!] to all out wild improvisations. The line up of four saxes and one percussionist works well. While Amy Denio and Jessica Lurie on alto and tenors are duelling with Sue Orfield and Tobi Stone on tenor and baritone saxes, Elizabeth Pupo-Walker scores a mad, mad back-beat on percussion. On "Gypsy Wedding", drummer Will Dowd joins the proceedings and turns festivities into a real brouhaha. At the end of the session, there's not a single person sitting in the room. Go and see The Tiptons live. If my lurking of Amy Denio's past projects is any indications, they should be an incredible act to catch on stage.

If "Tsunami" was for the feet, then "The Gospel Record" is certainly for the stomach. Clocking at a mere 14 minutes, these are seven of the most hilarious gospel covers you'll hear in your lifetime. Brought to you by Dennis Palmer [yes believers, the same one responsible for the Shaking Ray Levis madness that caught our pants on fire about a decade ago], it gently careens through the gospel catalogue with much sincerity and madness. Amy's vocals are once again honest and up-lifting [yes, in that spiritual sense too]! If you think you know Derek Bailey and can predict every move he'll make, then you haven't heard anything until you get your ears wrapped around this little gem. His electric impulses take over and he's sounding more Sonny Sharrock than Sonny ever was. On "Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All", he's speeding through dirty and grungy riffs that are mixed underneath Amy's convincing vocals. The most subversive factor in the mix is without a doubt Dennis Palmer. His samples and synth work are nothing short of a madhouse freak-out session. What you'll have to imagine is the tender, awe-inspiring, high-pitched vocals of Amy that resonate on top of Derek's sometimes gruelling, oftentimes tender guitar machinations. All of this is wrapped up in the blanket of various synth work that simply puts a different light on gospel music as you know it to be. Try listening to "Let the Little Sunbeam In" without shedding a tear. As Amy and Derek are vocalizing together, through a dense fog of guitar work, you'll be crying like a little child on Sunday morn'. So, I ask you, can improvised music do proper renditions of gospel numbers? Based on what I've heard, a resounding yes is well deserved. Without a doubt, "The Gospel Record" deserves to be on ALL year-end top lists. AMEN!

- Tom Sekowski

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