There really isn't anything that is better than sax, at least when it comes to jazz. So it was with a certain level of excited anticipation I gave The Unknown a spin by Mark DeJong.
The anticipation proved warranted. DeJong starts the work off hot with the cut Paris of the Prairies, a number which solidly introduces just how well this guy plays sax.
From there DeJong just keeps it coming, offering up eight tracks, all written and arranged by himself. That is a definite highlight, discovering hot new jazz with every track.
While obviously sax-driven, there is depth here. In particular David Freeman on percussion and Jerome Jennings on drums add some definite funk soul to the proceedings.
Steve Hudson's work on piano is also noteworthy, while Mike Noonday rounds out things on bass.
DeJong shows he can write music, and some of the cuts here could well end up covered by others in time, because they are quite nice. The pick of the crop is People Will Say We're In Love, an upbeat piece which reflects the title.
Originally from Calgary, DeJong is employed at the University of Saskatchewan in its music department, so we can take some local pride in this CD, which is a debut effort.
Giving the project a little international twist, The Unknown was recorded at Peter Karf Studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., with DeJong working as his own producer too.
Given the material, and DeJong's sax work, I certainly hope it is not the last we hear from him.
There is a sense of the open Prairies here. The pieces are for the most part bright, open and airy. It is refreshing as DeJong's saxophone seems to lightly blow across the wide open spaces of our minds.
There are pieces, such as Darkest Hour, my second pick on the CD, which are not as light in approach, yet they fit into the overall mood of the CD.
Grab this one. It's a great jazz album from the Canadian Prairies.
Check this sweet effort out at www.myspace.com/jazzmarkdejong
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 8, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada