Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Quiet City (1939, adapted by Christopher Brellochs, 2007) [13:39]
Leo ORNSTEIN (1893-2002)
Ballade (1955) [3:59]
Robert ALDRIDGE (b.1954)
Sound Moves Blues (1999) [10:30]
Walter S. HARTLEY (b.1927)
Lyric Suite (1993) [8:42]
Lawson LUNDE (b.1935)
Sonata for soprano saxophone and piano (Alpine) Op.37 (1970) [8:47]
Seymour BARAB (b.1921)
Suite for trumpet, alto saxophone and piano (1996) [13:01]
Christopher Brellochs (saxophone): Paul Cohen (saxophone): Donald Batchelder (trumpet): Mitchell Kriegel (clarinet and bass clarinet); Richard Clarke (viola); Lois Anderson (piano): Allison Brewster Franzetti (piano)
rec. July-August, 2010, Purchase College Performing Arts Center Recital Hall; Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, NY; Lyric Suite rec. June 2005, Town Hall, NY
A changing personnel of musicians has constructed an all-American programme of twentieth century music revolving around the saxophone. It’s usually for the alto - as in Copland’s Quiet City, Leo Ornstein’s Ballade, Robert Aldridge’s Sound Moves Blues, and Seymour Barb’s Suite - but one composer has designated the soprano and that’s Lawson Lunde. Two saxophonists share the burden, though Christopher Brellochs takes top billing, and Paul Cohen must make do with an under-spot, thus ‘…with Paul Cohen’, and smaller font size too.
Quiet City was an Irwin Shaw play that never made it to opening night. Copland wrote the instrumental music in 1939 but then recycled some of it for the work of the same name for trumpet, cor anglais and string orchestra; he also used some in Our Town. What we have in this disc is a premiere recording of the unpublished score with intervention limited to the organisation of the material into a concert form. According to the helpful booklet note joint-authored by Brellochs and Cohen - it was the latter, in fact, who sent the score to Brellochs - there are some emendations to the score, involving moving melodies from the trumpet and removing the saxophonist doubling on the clarinet.
The piece lasts around thirteen and a half minutes, and is written for trumpet, clarinet and bass clarinet, alto saxophone and piano. It opens with edgy trumpet fanfares, and then soon dissolves into a rather beautiful melody with delicious harmonies, somewhat reminiscent of Appalachian Spring. Copland also throws in some quirky rhythmic motives and a waltz passage, as well as a lonesome solo line for the saxophone. This is a very welcome restoration, finely played. I hope it’s taken up by curious ensembles.
Ornstein’s pretty little Ballade (1955) for alto and piano flows charmingly with a quicker central section embedded. Robert Aldridge’s Sound Moves Blues dates from 1999, and is crafted for clarinet, alto sax and piano - bar the Hartley piece, the hardworking pianist is Allison Brewster Franzetti. There’s a call-to-attention bluesy confidence to Aldridge’s writing, as the piano urges on the alto until the alto and clarinet riff over its rolling insinuating challenges. Walter Hartley’s Lyric Suite (1993) is for tenor sax, viola and piano and shows refined lyricism, and a good sense of contrast between the taut Nocturne and the fun Gigue. I can’t hear the Scherzino as ‘gritty’, as the notes suggest (it’s actually rather attractive), nor do I really hear any Bartók - maybe some Ravel. Lunde’s two-movement Sonata was originally only a one-movement piece written for flute. He expanded it for soprano sax and it’s tasteful, tuneful and has a breezy finale. Finally we have Seymour Barab’s Suite for trumpet, alto and piano. This has nice dialogues and exchanges, jaunty tunes, excellent dovetailing of themes and overlapping voices. It’s like a sort of vernacular Martinů in places, but without the motor rhythms.
Saxophonic Americana casts its net widely here. There’s nothing for avant-gardists, but if you like great tunes, bluesy excursions and limpid romanticism, then lend an ear.
Jonathan Woolf  

Great tunes, bluesy excursions and limpid romanticism.