Review: Shirantha Beddage, Roots and Branches (Jazz Excursion).

Maybe I wouldn’t be digging this young Canadian saxman’s session-leading debut half as much if he were yet another tenor grunt, but he’s not -- Beddage is mainly a baritonist, and you just don’t hear ‘em this proficient at any age. Talk about technique: Dude brings full beef, all the way from highest notes to low-lower-lowest, and when he finishes a phrase with that bedroom vibrato, it’s not that he’s chugging outa breath, it’s how he feels. He also swings like a hammock made for two, as if he stopped thinking about confidence years ago and now just >plays>, in every sense.

Beddage also wrote all nine tunes here, and that’s where the distinctiveness ends (but the party continues). Simple listenability in the post-bop arena is what he’s going for, not challenge, but if you can work up a nasty thought at any moment while absorbing the borderline corn of “Seoul Sister,” the hummable “As the Flower Grows” or the carefree blowfest “Le Petit Grenouille,” you oughta run for dogcatcher. Best is the opener, “Turrentrane,” which is what it says, knocking into a hipster swing after its tangly introductory riff. Beddage’s unusually solid, teaky soprano and dry, masculine tenor, by the way, are no embarrassment. In breezy accompaniment, Michael Stryker (piano), Jared Schonig (drums) and Ryan Kotler (bass) will inspire neither note-taking nor tomato-tossing.

You’ll hear more from this guy. (Greg Burk)