Noah Preminger is a saxophonist of consequence, fully deserving of the positive critical response and appreciative audiences that flock to his appearances around New York and elsewhere. His relaxed, low-key leadership style on the bandstand offers up an easy-going vibe and he hosts his gigs with an affable charm. As a performer, Preminger is all in, sporting a sweetly burnished tone that smacks of classic tenor out of the Ben Webster or John Coltrane tradition, but Preminger speaks his own modern language that’s fresh and exciting. For the last couple of years, the saxophonist has been singularly focused on his exceptional working band comprised of guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Matt Pavolka and drummer Colin Stranahan, work-shopping new compositions at every opportunity. All that creativity, passion and interplay is fully present on Preminger’s terrific third record, Haymaker.
The album title comes from a boxing term meaning a “wild, knock punch” and the album accomplishes that with affecting realness and poise. Turns out that boxing is a Preminger pastime. A tune called “Morgantown” has a slippery lyricism that Preminger and crew negotiate with a steady hand, complete with an irresistible drum break for drummer Stranahan. Preminger bobs and weaves through “15,000,” named after his skydiving experience in New Zealand, and twists the feel-good hook of Dave Matthews’ anthem “Don’t Drink The Water” into a rock-fueled thrasher. While the album is mostly a heady brew of originals (plus a particularly good tune by ace-guitarist Monder called “Animal Planet”) Preminger has a way with ballads that few of his contemporaries can match. “My Blues For You,” an after hours track, catches Preminger’s horn floating like helium over an aching melody loaded with feeling. And the saxophonist smolders on a fleeting, misty-eyed version of “Tomorrow,” the standard from the musical Annie. Who would have thought that a boxer could play a tune with such tenderness?
Preminger sounds both liberated and solidly confident on Haymaker, and more revealing of himself through tunes about life experiences that matter—if you like his music as much as I do, we’re fortunate as listeners that his 27-year-old soul has so many more stories to tell. (10 tracks; 58 minutes)
This article is from the July 2013 edition of ICON Magazine, the only publication in the Greater Delaware Valley and beyond solely devoted to coverage of music, fine and performing arts, pop culture, and entertainment. More Information.