Luke ANTHONY (b. 1973)
Saxophone Concerto (2007) [23:02]
Far Away [6.47]; Miss Julie [6.55]; A Waltz [6.16]; Get Carter [6.53]; Far Away (Alternate Take) [6.57]
Tony Woods (alto and soprano saxophones)
Sound Collective/Tom Hammond
rec. RCM studios, April 2007

Luke Anthony’s name was new to me. He continues to study jazz and classical music in parallel. Composition studies were conducted at Royal Holloway College, at University of London with John Woolrich and Peter Wiegold and in Milan with Anne-Marie Turcotte. His work has been performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Royal Opera House, the South Bank Centre, Green Man, Lattitude and Edinburgh festivals. He has recently completed Montuno, a piece for Piano Circus (6 Pianos). Anthony is Composer-in-Residence at Ibstock Place School, Roehampton.

The three movements of this ever so lightly jazzy Saxophone Concerto are sub-titled Battle, Death and Resurrection. The first of these begins Middle Eastern and mysterious then jaunty and moves into steely mordant conflict. Minimalist euphoric surging ostinato cells, wavelets and rhapsodising are in evidence. Death has the slow bloom of the Mahler Adagietto. Its unhurried breathing provides a humane and later chromium gleaming pulse over which the saxophone idyllically soliloquises. It rises to a keeningly poignant climaxing for the saxophone. It’s just wonderful. The final Resurrection reminded me of the more lively Greek Dances by Skalkottas. Some of this writing is rather akin to Nyman’s Where the Bee Dances - the work championed with such triumph by John Harle. Don’t miss it Classic FM. The 25-strong orchestra is real: not sampled; not synthesised.

Far Away for piano, drum-kit and breathy saxophone is emotionally cool and laid-back - radiating a sort of contented melancholy. Miss Julie for the same forces is from the music Anthony wrote for a production of the Strindberg play. It is urgent and capriciously freewheeling. Get Carter is Anthony’s tribute to the long-lived American composer Elliott Carter. As perhaps expected it steps away from the jazzy accessibility of the other tracks and makes free with a higher acid content in the harmonic collisions. There’s feral verve about the more animated writing. Waltz is cool, affectionate and lyrical with the suggestion of moistening eyes. The piano line bustles intermittently with Swingles-style Bach. The final track is another take on Far Away - a sigh on which to leave an intelligently smiling music collection. The jazziness in the piano playing implies emphatic confidence. This sometimes veers into commercialism but this is redeemed by the feminine rhapsodising of the saxophone.

There are no background notes with the CD which is a pity although there is some information at Anthony at his website. The clean design of the cover and insert is admirable.

Luke Anthony is one of a host of composers - including, each in their different ways, Lionel Sainsbury and Graham Lynch) who are announcing their presence outside the conventional label scene. It’s a multitudinous trend so we will miss some but I am glad to have encountered Anthony’s music and want to hear more. His current projects include a Requiem Mass, an album of piano music and a new folk/rock album. That Requiem should be promising.

Rob Barnett