The sound of Dickie Landry’s saxophone — with tone and approach at once experimental and fully-realized — was a crucial component of the Phillip Glass Ensemble in the 1970s. During that era — the heyday of minimalism, new music and cross-disciplinary art adventures in New York City — Landry was also involved in many other collaborations and solo projects. Fifteen Saxophones, originally recorded in 1974 and released in 1977, presents Landry’s saxophone and flute in varying contexts and constructions of live delay and overdubbing. (The engineer here is Kurt Munkacsi, who also engineered and produced Glass records.)
Both the title piece and “Alto Quad Flute Delay” (the titles are functional and descriptive) seem steeped in Landry’s previous explorations of Gregorian Chant and church polyphony: there’s a billowing serenity to these works, as consonance and dissonance unfold and coalesce via the delay-created, choir-like motifs and melodies. But there is also — thanks to both the solid physicality and attention to breath underlying Landry’s technique and conception — a sense of grounded-ness and dimensionality.
Originally taking up side two of the LP release, “Kitchen Solo” features Landry working with a sonic lexicon rhythmically and texturally akin to that of free-jazz and avant-garde improv. These sounds, melodies and patterns, often made via extended technique — from overtones and reed-squeals to percussive clicks and taps; performed with live delays — create a variegated solo saxophone tour-de-force.
Fifteen Saxophones is a welcome re-issue, indeed. With its delays and luscious analog sonics, and with some of its compositional grounding in what might be called minimalism, it’s very much a record redolent of the time and place it comes from. But the strength of Landry’s personality — his clarity of expression and his well-honed commitment to sound itself — insures that it’s also a record that remains fresh and surprising all these years later.