The Bronx, New York
|Genres||Rock, pop, jazz, world, Middle Eastern, avant-garde, experimental, minimalism|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, composer, arranger, producer|
|Instruments||Saxophone, guitar, voice|
|Associated acts||Norman Salant Group, Moving Planet Orchestra, Saxophone Stories, 40-Saxophone Orchestra, Benjamin Bossi, The Residents, Romeo Void, Translator, Gregory Jones, Roy Sablosky, Lynn Mabry, Bernie Worrell, Peter Kaukonen, Chuck Hammer, Charles Octet|
Early life and career
Salant was born in 1953 and raised in The Bronx, New York. As a youth, he studied guitar and oboe, before teaching himself to play the saxophone as a teen. In 1973, while attending college at SUNY Buffalo, Salant joined experimental free-form rock group Charles Octet, originated by Chuck Hammer. The band had difficulty finding an audience, and when the group disbanded, Salant returned to New York City, where he briefly joined a disco band. He quit and moved to San Francisco in 1977. During the late 1970s, Salant contributed saxophone to a variety of jazz, rock and avant-garde projects.
Officially released in December 1981, his first solo album Saxaphone Demonstrations was named one of Trouser Press’s Ten Best Records of 1982. The album features “experiments with massed, minimalist-riff saxes,” and the single “Accidents” (an adaptation of Blondie’s “Accidents Never Happen”). Heavy with multi-tracked and electronically altered saxophones, Saxaphone Demonstrations has been described as being influenced by David Bowie’s Low, and in general being difficult to classify. The album’s title contains a deliberate misspelling of the word “saxophone” in an attempt to emphasize Salant’s different approach.
In January 1982, shortly after the release of Saxaphone Demonstrations, Salant put together the Norman Salant Group, “an appealing and talented band that… hit the Bay Area club circuit out of thin air.” Along with Salant on saxophone, the six-piece band was composed of Jeff Nathanson (guitar, synthesizer), Jeff Kaplan (guitar), Morey Goldstein (saxophone/clarinet), Steve Ashman (bass) and Bruce Slesinger of the Dead Kennedys (drums). The band earned quick success in the local club scene, headlining shows and opening for Mike Oldfield and X.
1984 saw the release of Salant’s LP Sax Talk. Recorded with some members of the Norman Salant Group, along with electronic musicians Gregory Jones and Roy Sablosky, the album has Middle Eastern, funk, new wave, dance and electronic influences. Two members of Romeo Void also make appearances. In March 1985, Sax Talk was featured on the cover of CMJ New Music Report.
Salant began collaborating with Benjamin Bossi following the dissolution of Bossi’s band Romeo Void in 1984. Working as an unaccompanied duet, often without amplification, the two saxophonists created tightly structured improvisational music with elements of jazz, country, doo-wop and minimalism. After finding success performing in the Bay Area, playing clubs and opening for acts like Big Audio Dynamite and Los Lobos at the Fillmore West, Salant and Bossi moved to New York in 1986 in search of further opportunities, occasionally returning to play in San Francisco.
Salant’s minimalist jazz piece for 40 saxophones was created for and had its world premiere at the New York Festival of the Arts’ Fête de la Musique in 1989, in celebration of France’s bicentennial. The New York Times called it “the most striking” event of the festival.
Other notable work
In the 1980s, Salant played on albums by Romeo Void (Benefactor) and The Residents (The Tunes of Two Cities ); wrote and arranged pop songs with Lynn Mabry; and acted in a Japanese television commercial for Schick. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s he was active in New York’s East Village downtown arts scene. He scored dance performances for various choreographers and performance artists, including Alyson Pou and Overfoot Dance Company. In 1991, he put together Norman Salant’s Moving Planet Orchestra, a minimalist improvisational jazz group featuring saxophone, Middle Eastern strings and percussion, synthesizer and bass. The following year he began performing “Saxophone Stories,” an improvised solo soprano saxophone show with electronic sounds, at the Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church in the East Village and at other venues around New York City. His music has been featured on John Schaeffer’s New Sounds program on WNYC.
- Saxaphone Demonstrations (1981, Alive Records)
- Sax Talk (1984, CD Presents)
- Saxophone Duo: Norman Salant & Benjamin Bossi (previously unreleased recordings from 1986 to 1989) (2011, Northcove Music)
- The 40-Saxophone Orchestra (1989 rehearsal, previously unreleased) (2012, Northcove Music)
- Saxaphone Demonstrations II: Bad Loops – Love Letter (from 1991, previously unreleased) (2012, Northcove Music)
- Sax/Off: Dance Scores (from 1991 to 1992, previously unreleased) (2012, Northcove Music)
- Postcards From the Hanging (Dec 2011, Northcove Music)
- Tag (Aug 2012, Northcove Music)
- Wong Gar-Ku (Jan 2013, Northcove Music)
- Greatest Hits (Feb 2013, Northcove Music)
- Grace (single) (Jul 2013, Northcove Music)
- Nebraska (single) (Sept 2013, Northcove Music)
- Nebraska (Nov 2013, Northcove Music)
- Romeo Void – Benefactor (1982, Columbia Records)
- The Residents – The Tunes of Two Cities (1982, Ralph Records)
- Michael Snyder, “Two Local Saxmen Shoot For the Big Apple,” San Francisco Chronicle (Datebook), September 14, 1986.
- Derk Richardson, “Talking Sax: A classic mismatch,” San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 5, 1986.
- Interview With Norman Salant, Another Room, June 3, 1982.
- Alan K. Lipton, “Norman Salant’s Futuresax,” BAM, May 7, 1982.
- Robert Payes, “Critics’ Choice: TP’s Best Records of 1982!” Trouser Press, Issue #82, February 1983.
- Larry Kelp, “Records,” Oakland Tribune, January 17, 1982.
- Robert James Lauriston, “Reinventing the Sax,” Artbeat, Winter ’83, Number 12.
- Eddy Larkin, “Norman Salant: On the forefront of innovation,” KUSF Wave Sector, Fall 1982, Number Eleven.
- “Sax Talk,” Louisville Times, April 6, 1985.
- Cover, CMJ New Music Report, Number 62, Volume 12 No. 4, March 22, 1985.
- “Benjamin Bossi and Norman Salant,” EAR Magazine, November 1986, Volume II, Number 3.
- Allan Kozinn, “Celebrating Summer in Music,” New York Times, June 19, 1989.
- John Rockwell, “Review/Music; Celebrating the Sounds of New York,” New York Times, June 22, 1989.
- Jennifer Dunning, “Dance: Olesker and Pou at St. Mark’s,” New York Times, February 1, 1988.
- Jack Anderson, “Reviews/Dance; Getting Around, Sometimes Upside Down,” New York Times, February 4, 1991.
- Jessie Leaman, “Day by Day: Listings,” New York Press, February 19–25, 1992.
- Jennifer Dunning, “Dance in Review,” New York Times, October 26, 1992.
- “New Sounds: Episode #142,” WNYC, October 16, 1988.