Album Review of
Deviate from Standards

Written by Joe Ross
November 2, 2021 - 4:12pm EDT
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Many musicians became introspective and quite prolific during 2020’s lockdown on live performance. The nine originals on saxophonist/composer/educator Dr. David Larsen’s Deviate from Standards were composed during the last four years, and some were recorded at Spokane Falls Community College where Larsen serves as Director of Instrumental Studies. The project allowed Larsen to stretch out and learn more about his own playing. What I especially enjoyed is that Larsen seems to have written or arranged pieces specifically for the conversational interplay with friends like clarinetist Ken Peplowski (“Augmented Reality”) and fellow saxophonist Dr. Greg Yasinitsky (“A New Thing Comin’” and “Tensai”). The arrangements are substantial, and the musicians play with enthusiasm, animation and intensity on offerings like “See You at 8” and “Into the Light.” “Family” is the most musically serene track on the album.

The tracks feature the fine keyboard work of Kate Skinner or Danny McCollim in cool offerings like “He Who Getz the Last Laugh” or “Into the Light” that allow each to bring out their individuality within the context of Larsen’s overall musical vision. Brendan McMurphy colors the sonic palette with his trumpet, flugel horn and drums. Josh Skinner and Nick Isherwood are the featured bassists.

David Larsen’s musical ideas are concise and clear, and as an educator, he no doubt advises young musicians today to have courage and take risks. Larsen’s explosive sax-centric music is a joy to hear, and it also demonstrates the leader (along with his bandmates) are fine melodists and masters of hustling improvisation.  Ultimately, what really matters is the emotional power of music, and Deviate from Standards expresses a copious amount of originality, determination and optimism. Looking forward (and out with the old), there’s clearly “A New Thing Comin’.” (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)