Quartet at the Crossroads Ė works for saxophone quartet from the American Composers Alliance
Lukas FOSS (1922-2009) Saxophone Quartet [13:23]
Richard BROOKS (b. 1942) Four-Play [7:54]
Gregory HALL (b. 1959) Quartet (I. Fantasy [5:53]; II. Scherzo [5:01]; III. Mountain [8:36]; IV. Fugues [6:23])
Barbara JAZWINSKI (b. 1950) Images in Blue [8:30]
Michael VELOSO (b. 1977) Parquet Deformation [5:51]
New Hudson Saxophone Quartet (Paul Cohen (soprano saxophone); Avi Goldrosen (alto saxophone); David Demsey (tenor saxophone); Tim Ruedeman (baritone saxophone))
rec. no details given
RAVELLO RR7805 [61:31]

Saxophone devotees are not short of stimulation and challenge on disc. Here are some examples from four living composers some of whom are members of the American Composers Alliance. The only name I recognise is that of the late Lukas Foss. The exploration that is the four movement Saxophone Quartet accommodates darting and grunting dynamism, steady-slow intimate textural shifts and a flickering gradient ascending to a conning tower where glancing blows track 360 degrees before a warm rapprochement with those calming textures. New Yorker Brooksí Fourplay is a single movement piece with something in common with that bass rich chattering power heard in the Foss. Add to this an embrace with dreamy lyricism which came less naturally in Fossís quartet. Californian Gregory Hall contributes a four-segment Quartet. Bathed in soft light this very extensive work declares a lavishly stocked imagination which is even more grounded in melody. It also has sufficient graininess to side-step blandness and to sustain the invention over such a long span. The Mountain movement has something of the Copland outdoor air. The final Fugue has a gawky stagger as a prelude to Hallís hard-wired leaning towards sophisticated metropolitan melody draws him back into a rapturous meditation. That pecking staccato ends the piece with a propulsion that references William Schuman. Jazwinskiís Images in Blue is a piece in continuous bluesy kaleidoscopic motion, Its material blends Stravinskian discords into the Jack Daniels bluesy sway. This Polish-born composer numbers Gyorgy Ligeti and Mario Davidovsky among her teachers. Brooklyner Veloso is the youngest of the five. His Parquet Deformation was inspired by Samuel Beckettís theatre-piece Quad in which four people walk through and around a square. When you hear the music you can hear how this fits. The music is touched with the minimalist brush. The ideas interlock and shift. A touch of Nyman and Glass here. The recording has pile-driver impact and plenty of textured presence. Good notes and healthy design values on parade.

Rob Barnett

Stimulation and challenge.