Few saxophone players bother with the bass sax—just wielding it is effort enough. Even fewer can say they’ve played nothing but in a band, often in lieu of a bass player no less. Colin Stetson is likely the only reedman to boast this; Jeremiah Lockwood’s Sway Machinery is just one of the groups that keep the Greenpoint resident hustling all over town, impressing everyone who hears his genre-defying style. A practiced circular breather, Stetson’s solo work ranges from fireside-warm Hungarian folk tunes to bass squonking that jackhammers the mind. “The horns won’t be represented in three dimensions,” he says of his imminent debut solo album. “If you think of the live thing as a geodesic dome and all the different noises as panels in the dome, the record will be that dome unfolded, placing all the sounds in the stereo field.” Sound far-fetched? Just wait until you hear him make any of the reeds he puts to his lips pucker, pop, moan, bop, and sing.
Stetson also leads Transmission, a Midwest-bred, Bay Area–rooted, and now New York–franchised band of varying sizes and locales that moves with the narrative lilt of a Haruki Murakami novel as easily as it drops into singsong hecticness. The diverse plurality of their musical ideas makes singular the mix of post-bop swing, indie-rock power chords, and hip-hop breaks. Meanwhile, he also plays in the jazzed-out experimental salsa group Zemog El Gallo Bueno and Jordan Mclean’s Fire of Space, specializing in an amalgam of Sun Ra tunes and Bollywood soundtracks. Stetson fuses odd time signatures to American roots music with a few incisive breaths. It stands to reason that as the world shrinks, Stetson champions multicultural music to fill the space we all share. No reason not to invite everybody on in.
Transmission play Zebulon May 31.