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Chamber Music, June 2000

"A wonderful collection of Christensen's music for woodwinds(primarily sax), double bass and percussion. Jazz with underlying tones of world influences makes for a great listen."

Josef Woodward
JazzTimes, June 2000

"Gualala is the debut recording for Naxos by the fine saxist/reed player and composer Tom Christensen. An artful quartet project, sans chordal instrument, the CD features fellow reed player Charles Pillow, bassist Ben Allison or Doug Weiss and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. The sound is best described as chamber jazz, especially given Christensen's composerly instincts and the novel use of oboes in the mix.

The oboe inclination came off-handedly, as he was running down original tunes for his friend and mentor Dave Liebman. 'Liebman said 'Man, why don't you play oboe on this record? What are you thinking?' I didn't have a valid answer. And then I thought, 'What's better than one oboe? Two oboes.'" He laughs, "not always, actually."

Gualala is the name of Christensen's hometown, in Napa, Calif. He headed east to study music at Eastman, and ended up in New York. His resume includes work with Toshiko Akiyoshi's big band, Maria Schneider, recording with Don Sebesky's band and a spot on Joe Lovano's Celebrating Sinatra album.

But left to his own devices as a leader, Christensen leans towards smaller groups, and the current one was custom-tailored. "I wanted these personalities," Christensen says, "and that dictated the instrumentation of the group."

They began with a performance at Small's in Greenwich Village, as part of a composer's forum, and grew legs. In concocting material for the group, he drew on various inherent interests, including his classical music studies." I checked out a lot of ECM records, and a lot of Oregon, of course, in my time. Actually, I also listened to a lot of straightahead stuff and world music stuff."

He also names his adopted city as a big influence. " You get that feeling of this community in New York, there everybody is inspiring each other to play. There are plenty of these cats, writing music fast and furiously, rehearsing and playing sessions at people's houses, just trying to come up with new stuff that's valid and interesting and personal. It's great, man, worth the price of admission."

John Henry
Audiophile Audition, March 2000

"Christensen is a talented performer on all the woodwinds and a fine composer as well - all nine tracks here are his originals. His cohort in the quintet is Charles Pillow, who also solos on all the woodwinds. The oboe is frequently heard - not an instrument commonly heard in jazz today. The track New Pedal Tune features Tom on soprano and Charles on sopranino saxes for a very unusual blend. The tasteful and versatile percussion work of member Satoshi Takeishi underscores the lyrical woodwind soloing. The CD's title cut conveys "the serene atmosphere" of a little town on the Northern California coast. (Serene? They should be at the Gualala hotel on Saturday nights as I've been...)"

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group