(from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly, c. 2008)
Saxophonist Benn Clatworthy started in London but moved to Los Angeles. His playing is muscular and gutsy, and he’s always thinking…like classic Sonny Rollins you swear that every note he plays makes perfect sense, no matter the original melody. It’s not pretty, but it can be beautiful, and his languid overblowing and long mournful stretches of high notes shush a crowd, as if they’re hearing something very intimate. He can honk with the best of them, too, a Booker Ervin getting down. But when he really gets going and his ideas take him out, look out…. But it’s never exactly free. Never just squawk for squawk’s sake. The sound is often Trane, but the thinking Sonny. His albums are all on the tiniest labels (Verve never did call). They’re all excellent, like the tough Tercet, or both Live At Charlie O’s cds (the latest collaboration with pianist Theo Saunders, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Jimmy Branly.) You can buy one off him at Charlie O’s this Sat., April 7. Or buy one at Jax on Tues., April 10. He’s still plays the smaller clubs. It’s a tough living, but the jazz is intense and bracing, gorgeous and angry. Like fellow saxophonists Charles Owens, Herman Riley, and Pete Christlieb, Benn Clatworthy is a jazz master tucked away on the wrong coast.
(I wrote more words about Benn Clatworthy than any other musician, thousands if words, and it did nothing for the guy. In any other town he’d be a star. He remains my favorite living tenor saxophonist…and is right up there with a bunch of the non-living tenor players, too.)