Spearheaded by saxophonist, David Bixler, the Auction Project’s latest release continues its conceptual approach of combining the art of jazz (i.e., improvisation) with Celtic style based compositions. As with their previous CD, simply titled the Auction Project, Bixler is once again joined on this recording with, pianist Arturo O’Farrill, in which he had played alongside in the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Orchestra, his wife, Heather Martin Bixler, a classically trained violinist who had also studied Irish fiddling, bassist Carlo Derosa, and drummer Vince Cherico Originally from the Midwest (Wisconsin), Bixler began studying piano at an early age before getting turned onto jazz and of the sounds of Dexter Gordon, his first jazz influence. After graduating from Indiana University, he headed for New York City to further hone his musical training as a jazz performer and composer. During the next 23 years in New York he worked as a freelancer, and toured with the bands of Lionel Hampton, Chico O’Farrill and Toshiko Akoyoshi, among others. In addition to his performing career, Bixler has composed several works, including his Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, and Heptagon for saxophone quartet, among others. Although he stays active as a performer and composer, he is also dedicated to teaching and is currently the Director of Jazz Studies at Bowling Green University. Of the nine compositions on this CD, Bixler wrote three, arranged five from Celtic based compositions, and his wife, Heather, wrote the last composition. The CD opens with a Celtic influenced tune called Bear Island Reel. While all the Celtic influenced tune melodies are integral in each of Bixler’s arrangements, his compositional influence is strongly prevalent, and his playing on each is not only essential, but also compelling as he firmly establishes the direction and momentum in each tune with his creativity as an improviser and strong-toned sound on saxophone. Bixler’s three original compositions, Cleveland, Slink, and Angry White Man, draw from personal experiences, each different and unique. Cleveland’s funky groove and lyrical melody are a wonderfully interesting dichotomy that is not only exploited as a compositional technique, but also as the foundation of Bixler’s improvised solo. Slink’s unexpected underlying rhythmic kicks and unusual harmonies provide a perfect backdrop for soloists (O’Farrill and guitarist Mike Stern) to explore beyond the expected. Bixler’s Angry White Man begins with a contrapuntal presentation among the ensemble members before moving to a hard-hitting section that dissolves into solos. Bixler’s solo is pointed as he punctuates his thoughts through a driving melodic line over a complimentary backdrop provided by the rhythm section. Heather Bixler’s Workmanship (Air) is a beautifully constructed, unadorned melody that projects love, devotion, optimism, and salvation. Like the other compositions and performances on this CD, the love of the music and the connection each musician makes with one another while performing is real and sincere. Their honesty, along with their bountiful talents, allows the music on this CD to not only reach, but also touch the listener on many levels.
Frank Bongiorno Saxophone Today March/April 2015
12.01.14Down Beat 3 and 1/2 stars
The winning grace of Auction Project’s jazz-meets-Celtic (and sometimes Afro-Cuban) sound is its naturalness and intimacy. The ensemble sound centers on the talented married couple of alto saxophonist-composer David Bixler and classical violinist/Irish fiddler Heather Martin Bixler.
This is David Bixler’s second outing spearheading Auction Project. As an alumnus of Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, he’s no stranger to pan world experiments. For this sophomore outing, he has once again recruited the superlative support of pianist O’Farrill, drummer Vince Cherico (a longtime member of O’Farrill’s orchestra) and bassist Carlo De Rosa.
“Beare Island Reel" opens the disc with a folk dance layered over funk. Heather Martin Bixler energetically bows the reel while David Bixler weaves counter lines. When they meet in unison, the vibrant sound lends the band a distinct voice. David Bixler compliments the fiddle in an almost string-like approach, catching every nuance.
The title track is a highlight; showcasing David Bixler’s arranging strengths in a mini-epic that escalates with a dramatic big heart. Guest guitarist Mike Stern spins his usual magic here with a solo climaxing into dizzying jazz-rock shredding. “Marquis of Huntley" embraces Scottish music with a traditional dance called a strathspray. The rhythm section lays into a sly medium-tempo funk, creating a bit of high-land-meets-urban lowland attitude.
“Heron’s Egg" is the albums most mashed-up excursion. Expanding on a lilting fiddle intro featuring traditional jigs, Cherico subtly juxtaposes Afro-Cuban rhythms. The full ensemble eventually builds a driving, joyous jig-a-jazz waltz `a la Caribbean. Natural as can be. “Workmanship (Air)" is a lovely folk ballad with a hint of hymn. Appropriately, the album concludes with this restrained number, which echoes with the definitive Irish sound of uilleann pipes.
Alto saxist David Bixler puts together a richly textured team of Arturo O’Farrill/p, Carlo De Rosa/b, Vince Cherico/dr and the ringer of violinist Heather Martin Bixler for a collection of tunes that mixes jazz sensibilities with Cumberland Gap evocations. With guest guitarist Mike Stern and pipist Isaac Alderson,, moods of Ireland swing away on “Workmanship (Air)" while fusion styled fun is delivered with the electric stringed wizard on“Slink." Wonderful mixes of blues and Shenandoah Valley folksiness glistens when alto sax and violin converse on “Bear Island Reel" and the strutting “Richie Dwyer’s Reel." Funk even gets into the equation on “Cleveland" whereas O’Farrell’s piano glides like a kite on “Heron’s Egg." Creative, imaginative and thoroughly enjoyable on a plethora of levels.
written by George W. Harris
10.14.14Roots Music Report 4 stars
How does a traditional fiddle phrase fit atop a breezy, post-bop groove? For this quintet, led by alto
saxophonist David Bixler, the question is far from problematic and makes for just one example of the
fresh nature of this set. Bixler and violinist Heather Martin Bixler are the primary voices on “heads"
strong on invention without any sacrifice of swing. Both are solid soloists as well but show-stealing
credits go to pianist Arturo O’Farrill. The accomplished Latin-jazz player consistently maxes out the
potential of each distinctive theme present. Fusion guitarist Mike Stern guests.
written by Duane Verh
The Auction Project\'s album Slink stakes out uncommon musical territory, a place where Celtic reels merge with gospel and funk, as if it
were the most natural thing on earth. In these hands, this combination does sound perfectly natural, and at times transcendent -with Dave Bixler on alto sax, Heather Martin Bixler on violin, Arturo O\'Farrill on piano, Carlo De Rosa on bass and Vince Cherico on drums, with a guest appearance by Mike Stern on electric guitar.
\"Marquis of Huntley\" is one track that demonstrates the unlikely chemistry between these two genres: Heather Martin Bixler takes
the Scottish Strathspey dance rhythm and folds it into Cherico\'s funky groove.
\"Richie Dwyer\'s Reel\" takes an Irish tune down a different path, into straight-ahead swing. On \"Heron\'s Egg,\" O\'Farrill and De Rosa find inspiration in the syncopated pattern of an Irish jig to take flight into a Cuban fantasy.
Heather Martin Bixler\'s violin offers several of the album\'s most revelatory moments: she takes \"The Wind That Shakes The Barley,\" a nineteenth-century ballad of Irish rebellion, and turns it into a quiet duet with O\'Farrill, which sets an evocative scene with just the right measures of jazz improvisation and Irish ornamentation. Her hymn-like composition \"Workmanship\" closes the album, with high lonesome touches on guitar added by Stern. As elsewhere of this album, no one overplays, which only adds to the
\"The trust and absence of unnecessary ego result in moments of trapeze-like abandonment,\" says
O\'Farrill, \"where it feels like flying.\"
- Tim Wilkins, WBGO digital content producer