By Bonnie Schendell
With so many headliners grabbing the glory and the spotlight for their new releases, the myriad of independent artists have a really tough time. But sometimes you come across a CD that just stands out from the pack and captures your attention. Andrew Neu, a saxophonist from Philadelphia, has done just that with his second release, In Clear View. The CD contains 15 (yes, you read that right) tracks, with three of them covers, and also enlists the efforts of such guest performers as Jeff Lorber, Brian Bromberg, Gerald Veasley, Dave Weckl, and Kevin Toney. Andrew mixes it up well on this CD with the alto, tenor, and soprano saxes; the latter expressing an almost Art Porter-like sound and groove.
The CD opens with the Kool & the Gang hit, “Celebration.” An interesting song choice to open the CD, and honestly one that almost made this listener pop the disc out. But I continued on and was happy I did. The next track, “Wine,” features Andrew on the soprano sax, alongside Jeff Lorber and Brian Bromberg. This is a brisk-paced melody that introduces you to the real sound of Andrew Neu. Jeff Lorber takes control of the guitar with a terrific solo. “Moving On" is fully an alto song, filled in with Brian Bromberg’s bass and the drumming of Dave Weckl. It’s very melodic and catchy. “Come to Me” is a romantic, soprano sax tune. Andrew clearly knows how to lure the listener in and keep their attention with his melodies.
My favorite track on this CD is “Seven Mile Bridge.” Andrew lets his alto fly alongside the Bright and Tight Horns, who provide a full bodied horn section. This is a tune for car cruising! And if you’ve ever driven over the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys, you can feel the surroundings in this track. “Night Lights” is a serene, low-key track that allows you to kick back and enjoy the tenor sax backed up again by the horn section. The horns are broken up by a great little guitar solo mid-song. “I Heard It In The Night” makes me think of Renaissance times. It has an old-time melody to it that is quite peaceful.
Two additional covers, “You Are,” the Lionel Richie hit, and “Babe,” from Dennis DeYoung of Styx, are done well and made to sound very fresh. Neither of these are tracks that are overdone. If you want to stay in a 70s sound, listen to “Shadow Dancing.” Andrew is again on the alto with the horns backing him up. It’s a fun, head-bopping kind of groove. “Clear View” is another tune where Andrew puts forth the Art Porter sound. His tone is vibrant and clear, and he is definitely having fun expressing himself. A great choice for the title track.
“Sob City” is heavily influenced by old school jazz and blues. Andrew stretches out on this one with Brian Bromberg and Gerald Veasley adding the bottom. It’s the smokey-club song of the CD! “D’Aja Wu” is definitely a Steely Dan tinged song. You can clearly hear the infusion of their sound in this track written by Andrew. For a low key, but flavorful tune, check out “Blame It On Rio.” Andrew shows his versatility not only on the alto sax, but the flute, as well. A nice addition to the sound. The CD closes out with “Easy Pass,” a very strong track to finish out with. The big horn sound really resonates and makes this a fun song.
Andrew Neu is definitely a bright light on the horizon of sax players. After seeing him perform live at a jam session at the Berks Jazz Festival, and then listening to this CD, I would highly recommend keeping your eyes and ears on him. In Clear View is exactly where Andrew Neu is. Stay tuned for more from this versatile player.