When you start your album out with a Beatles cover, especially one that sounds nothing like the original, I’m ready to listen. In this case, saxophonist Shawn Costantino does this with a cool version of “Can’t Buy Me Love”, and from that point on the album keeps on getting better. Waltz For Anne isn’t an album that just spotlights the artist, but all of the musicians. Costantino could easily say “I’m going to do my work and just play the sax in everything”, but in the title track you also have guitarist Andrew Synowiec with an incredible electric solo, bassist David Hughes getting deep into the funk that drummer Jens Kuross creates, before paving the way for organist Lincoln Cleary, and overall it has the same kind of feel you might find on some boogaoo Blue Note or Prestige jazz circa 1968/1969. It’s slanky, sweaty, and funky, but then Castantino and friends show that they’re not just retro pioneers, but explorers of moods and emotion on this album.
What I like about Constantino’s playing is that he understands control and limits. I love it when a musician goes beyond the point of no return, but I also like it when someone is reserved. Whether it’s the sax, clarinet,or flutes, he’s capable of working everything into a song but knowing exactly when to place a period in an expression or allowing another band member to carry on with a theme. The songs are arranged very well, his originals are quite good, but also worthy is his cover of James Taylor‘s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”, which will definitely please jazz fans who aren’t particularly fond of Taylor’s own work, as it keeps to the original acoustic qualities but making it better. Guitarist Synowiec even gets a song placed within the mix with the album closer, “Bailout”, and if you’re someone who loves some of the guitar work that can be found on mid to late 70’s ECM, listen to him go back and forth with Costantino on “Whatever You Do”. Put it on in the background and create the perfect night for lovers, or at least to kick back in your electric chair to be mesmerized by the recording and musicianship.
While Costantino has performed and recorded with others throughout the years, Waltz For Anne is his first album as a leader. All I have to say to that is “damn, what took you so long?” Sometimes it takes time for things to be aged to its prime, and while Costantino is far from being in his prime, the release of this album shows that this is his time. Yes, that last sentence dabbled in rhyme.