Jerome Sabbagh & Greg Tuohey's Slow Simmering No Filter Isn't Brickwall Filtered!

Tenor saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh's follow up to The Turn, a duet album with guitarist Greg Tuohey arrived quite some time ago. I've been playing it repeatedly trying to get a grasp.

Before getting to the music, just to draw you in, it was recorded live to 1/2" two track analog tape by James Farber at Sear Sound, December 22, 2017 and cut by Bernie Grundman directly from the analog tape (The Turn was recorded to tape but then transferred to high resolution digital before lacquer cutting). There are no overdubs or edits. That doesn't often happen anymore—even on so-called "live" albums where thanks to multi-tracking, parts can later be easily replaced in the studio.

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Sabbagh's background, he was born in Paris in 1973 and moved to New York in 1995. According to his bio, after one gig, Paul Motian asked him to play a week-long Village Vanguard stint September of 2011 with the late drummer's New Trio featuring guitarist Ben Monder.

Sabbagh's quartet featuring Monder, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Ted Poor has released three albums including the aforementioned The Turn. He's also shared the stage with Billy Drummond, Victor Lewis, Andrew Cyrille, Reggie Workman and many others. On this album he's again joined by bassist Joe Martin, here with Kush Abadey on drums.

He co-leads the Sabbagh/Tuohey Group so it's not as if these two got together in the studio for this session, but sometimes, during the initial plays that's what it sounded like to me. Tuohey isn't here as an accompanist. He's written four of the seven tunes and shares leads with Sabbagh. Even though within some of slow, percolating tunes they mirror each other, there are times when they seem to be on different planets. That takes some time getting used to as does the slow, deliberate pacing and Sabbagh's deceptively low energy, brooding playing that's only occasionally punctuated by short intense runs. On the Sabbagh-penned opener "Vicious", an insistent staccato bass driven lurker there are moments where it sounds as if Sabbagh's train might completely stop between stations until Tuohey's liquid-sounding hollow bodied electric blows the whistle and it again picks up speed driven by Abadey's splashy cymbals and tom pounds! Live to 2-track can have those moments.

Next up is Tuohey's "Lurker" where the two share in lockstep the twisty melodic theme. The pace is slow, insistent and not exactly swinging but that's clearly the album's New York drift (though Tuohey's from Seattle). The wistful ballad "No Road" ends the side, which runs an ideal approximately 20 minutes. Again the two share the melodic theme, probably easier to scale on guitar than on saxophone but that's just my guess.

Side two opens with the album's most beautiful meditative moment, a short guitar statement on a tune called "Chaos Reigns" and you wonder from where that name comes until the song does turn chaotic. Sabbagh's meditative ballad "Cotton" is my favorite composition. The album concludes with Sabbagh's "You Are On My Mind", the set's most tuneful and conventional composition. You might want to start there first play and then head over to side one.

As for the sound, it's warm, full and inviting as you might expect and definitely turn it up because no matter how loud you play it, it will sound great. In fact, you'd be missing out if you don't crank it up, especially when you hear how well the drums react to high SPL playback. The stage puts guitar on the left, sax and bass center and drums on the right. Unlike some recordings that spread the drums across the stage in a distracting way, Farber keeps it all to one side, however, the isolation can make it seem as if Abadey's been exiled on a island. Overall, though you'll love the warm sound, unless your system has been tailored warm to compensate for today's ice. Then it might be too warm (!) but I'll take that every time over chilly.

Mr. Sabbagh sent this record to me and over probably the past year nudged me more than a few times asking when I'd post a review. At one point I actually lost the record! Easy to do here, so he sent another. I'm glad I waited all of this time to post the review because I wasn't "getting" some of the melodic structure and seemingly oddly chosen notes, as well as the deliberate, slow-pacing. Finally I do. Mr. Sabbagh avoids convention. This is a set of "insistently introspective" tunes that requires you to slow down to catch up. As of now this fine-sounding well-pressed limited to 500 copies AAA LP is available only on Mr. Sabbagh's website.

I'm not sure if the album title refers to no brick wall filter, but when you listen you'll know there wasn't one!

COMMENTS
firedog's picture

Even the digital hi-res (Qobuz) sounds really good.

avanti1960's picture

like "the turn" you gotta love that electric fuzz guitar miked in with a jazz combo!

saxman73's picture

Hi,

This is Jerome Sabbagh writing. I want to thank Michael Fremer for the review. I am grateful for the support of readers here.

I also wanted to let people know that, in addition to the all analog vinyl, the album is now available in reel to reel of various formats (as well as CD and downloads of different resolutions, including 96/24). Please feel free to contact me through my website if interested. Thank you!

Jerome Sabbagh

GroovyGuru's picture

Hi Jerome, I loved what I hear on bandcamp of The Turn and No Filter ! Can I find the vinyls on Paris ? Shipping costs (as always from the USA)are astronomous... Thanks
Sébastien

saxman73's picture

Hi Sébastien,

Thanks! I don't have distribution in Paris but I am touring there soon with the band from "No Filter". We are playing Radio France on Feb 22. I also have gigs in Paris with another band on Feb 28 and 29. I will have limited quantities of vinyl with me. You could perhaps pick one up at a gig if you're free? Email me at jerome@jeromesabbagh.com and we can work this out, one way or another. I know shipping costs are high, unfortunately I don't have control over that, I charge what it costs me to ship ...

Thanks for your interest!

Jerome

ilbiffo's picture

I have the number 133/500 of the Limited Edition ,the music is great and the vinyl realization is top but the shipment box don't save the record cover from a crushed corner and a seam split.
This is a pity and I advice for future creations to use a shipment box bigger than the cover record.

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