Saxophonist Binker Golding Drops Deep, Gutbucket Tenor Playing On ‘Dreaming Like a Dogwood Wild Boy’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Photo by Carl Hyde

Multi-award-winning UK tenor saxophonist and composer Binker Golding hasn’t even been on the scene that long but has risen quickly. You may best know him from the sax-drum duo where his partner is Moses Boyd. Golding also appeared on Charles Tolliver’s 2020 Connect, which, like this new one, was also on Gearbox where Golding delivered his acclaimed 2019 solo debut, Abstractions of Reality Past And Incredible Feathers. Golding also attracted considerable notice in his duo work with keyboardist Eliot Galvin and his trio work with John Edwards and Steve Noble.

He has amassed over five awards for these recordings but none of that will quite prepare a listener for his second solo offering, Dreaming Like a Dogwood Wild Boy where he forges a sound unique to a so-called jazz artist as it incorporates elements of blues, heartland rock, and Americana. While it’s tough to assign themes to a fully instrumental endeavor, Golding, now in his mid-thirties, cites a well-encompassing litany from adulthood to father and son relationships, and the usual touchstones of friendship, love, and sex, reflection, drinking, resilience, and even death. 

Golding assembled a group of collaborators, some of whom he has joined on their own albums such as pianist Sarah Tandy. Guitarist Billy Adamson proves that he understands the blues, among other forms while the rhythm section is filled out by double bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Sam Jones. This eminently accessible sound is exciting. In fact, there are some moments here, “Love Me Like A Woman” as the prime example, where this writer recalls a similar stunning reaction to the kind of deep, gutbucket tenor blowing as heard on King Curtis’ iconic Live at the Fillmore West. Yes, this is a truly special sound, beginning with (how often does one hear this on a jazz album?) bluesy slide guitar soon joined by the rest of the band, as Golding delivers soaring clusters of notes on “{Take Me To The} Wide Open Lows,” a song that one may more easily associate with the expansive prairies of America’s Midwest than anything remotely British Isles. It’s not only a feature for the guitarist but pianist Tandy swings into high gear on her solo too.

Golding claims to be influenced by Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Me Like a Man” (actually penned by Chris Smither) when he wrote the blues-drenched “Love Me Like a Woman,” the clear standout. The slow pace has Golding starting rather deliberately alternating short bursts with sustained notes before crafting the most chill-inducing tenor blues lines in recent memory. Adamson steps up, answering with his own penetrating lines and then the two engage in an earth-shaking call and response that threatens to destroy anything in its path. “My Two Dads” has Golding blowing repetitive phrases, emulating two voices, with Tandy echoing the same in her glistening solo as Jones gives it a light touch with a percolating pattern over which Golding improvises lyrically, building to more aggressive statements while Tandy comps. 

Jones’ persistent beats drive Golding through “Drinking in God’s Country” while Adamson supplies dissonant chords and Tandy comps steadily to Golding’s impassioned series of choruses, handing the baton to Tandy just shy of the four-minute mark, upon which she launches a rollicking turn, maintaining the frenzied tempo. Proving that they can play with restraint and subtlety when called for, they gorgeously render the ballad “’ Til My Heart Stops,” with Adamson again authoring a tasteful, ringing bluesy solo, after which also Golding turns more bluesy in his expressions before Tandy and Jones gracefully take it out. Jones and Casimir build “With What I Know” into another fierce, dynamic number that melts down just a bit at the bridge with Golding soaring and Adamson chiseling more folk-rock guitar lines that morph into more jagged, angular forms behind Tandy’s comping. Golding heeds no boundaries here – he is in the stratosphere.  Finding it nearly impossible to maintain such intensity, the quintet closes with what is likely the “reflection” piece, Golding still blowing robustly but more melodically as Tandy finds her most pensive moments as well with a terrific solo. 

Bluesy, expansive, dynamic, inspired – choose any adjective; this is a major triumph. Golding has made an accessible album that will appeal well beyond the mainstream or edgier jazz audience. 

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