The five song EP from saxophonist Walter Hansen, Perspective, is a nuanced and intensely musical affair. Hansen has gathered quite a reputation as one of the best modern purveyors of the aforementioned instrument, but there’s very little about his approach that falls between strictly purist lines. Instead, Hansen uses tradition to inform his personal approach to music. The EP has a distinctly modern sound with clean, warm production values enlivening each of the songs and Hansen’s dominant role in the mix never undercuts the additional instruments. The songs are lean and trim, never risking musical excess or self indulgence, and makes occasionally effective use of ambient sound effects to augment the instrumentation. Melodies seem to flow rather freely from Hansen’s creative imagination and they infuse each of these compositions with a genuine spark of inspiration. Perspective will find favor with many listeners and never risks alienating them with inaccessibility.
“I Miss You” suggests a downer musical mood and there is some mournful notes struck by the musical arrangement, but the melodic content of the song is so superb it tempers any outright despair. Perspective is, primarily, an instrumental EP, but Hansen’s compositions have such robust melodic qualities they seem to sing out from some place deep within his heart and the personal slant suggested by the arrangements are quite stirring. It’s the album’s longest song and the powerful production frames it in such a way that the weaving of instruments fueling the track never risk grating on listener’s attention. “My Song” makes artful use of some sound effects in the beginning, but the audience is soon returned to familiar ground as Hansen’s sax playing imbues it with an emotional depth that we seldom hear in modern jazz. Instead of merely aping the genre’s tropes, Hansen pulls his content from some place deep within his psyche and fills the grooves of material like this with a confidence and poetic beauty few of his peers can match. “My Song”, likewise, reinforces the idea that it’s the notes you don’t play that matter the most – it’s a composition that breathes and never feels unduly weighty despite its seriousness of intent.
The sole song on Perspective with vocals, “You”, reveals Hansen to be a capable and emotive vocalist. He never tries to place his voice front and center in the mix; instead, his singing seems married to the keyboard, synth, and ghostly drumming that propels the musical arrangement. There’s another foray into the more melancholy side of his musical character with the penultimate composition “Find a Way”, but there’s a resoluteness listeners will hear in the song’s crescendos that suggests an indomitability of spirit many will find quite inspiring. “Beautiful Day” concludes the EP with a bit more brightness despite its deliberate tempo and Hansen delivers one of his more memorable exhibitions of playing skill with this song. Perspective hits all the right places for listeners of every ilk; as the saying goes, there’s something here for everyone and, with only five songs compromising its running order, that’s a substantial achievement.
by Lydia Hillenburg