Review by Brad Walseth
The combination of vibes and soprano sax is one that hasn't really been utilized very often in the annals of jazz, but in the hands of two masters, Ed Saindon and Dave Liebman, a strong case is to be made for further exploration. "Depth of Emotion" is a highly satisfying release, surprisingly recorded in 3 hours, that features Berklee educator Ed Saindon on piano and 4-mallet vibes and marimba, along with saxophonist Dave Liebman playing Saindon's wonderful compositions. Backed by David Clark on acoustic bass and Mark Walker on drums for much of the album, Saindon's songs are sophisticated yet melodic, intensely felt, yet relaxed.
Highlights include: the bittersweet, yet joyous opener "The Last Goodbye" - written for the late trumpeter Herb Pomeroy, a frequent duet partner of Saindon's; two takes of the poignant "The Healing;" unique covers of "Moon River" and "Green Dolphin Street;" several lovely originals reflecting on places like Brazil and Switzerland; and a number of solo piano pieces that end the album. Liebman's saxophone is stellar throughout - emotional and melodic, but also tough and gnarly, and I enjoyed his brief turn on an Indian flute on "Giorgio's Theme." Clark and Walker provide exemplary support and take advantage of their opportunities to shine when called upon.
The mix of Liebman's soprano sax and Saindon's vibes works so well because both parties use a soft and complementary tone. But Saindon, whose mallet work has been rightfully lauded, is quite the pleasant surprise on the piano. I suppose it shouldn't be too surprising as his approach to playing the vibraphone is quite pianistic, but he makes a compelling argument for gaining a wider audience for his brilliant work on the acoustic piano as well. The solo piano piece "Joyful Sorrow" is a perfect example of the emotional contrasts Saindon imbues his compositions with, deeply reflecting upon the very complexity of life itself. Balancing the need for melodicism with the spontaneity of freedom, Saindon and his counterpart Liebman find that airy stratosphere between ground and sky and heart and mind where they can paint a vivid musical panorama for the listener.