French Music for Alto Saxophone
André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
Fantasie-impromptu (1953) [3:38]
Paule MAURICE (1910-1967)
Tableaux de Provence (1948-55) [15:44]
Jacques CHARPENTIER (b.1933)
Gavambodi 2 (1966) [9:34]
Jeanine RUEFF (1922-1999)
Chanson et passepied (1951) [2:47]
Fernande DECRUCK (1896-1954)
Sonata (1943) [13:25]
Michael Ibrahim (alto saxophone)
John Morrison (piano)
rec. June 2010, Creative Arts Centre, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia
CALA CACD 77012 [43:08]

The circle of musicians and composers who were associated with and directly influenced by Marcel Mule (1901-2001), the very distinguished, pioneering and long-lived French saxophonist, was extensive. This disc concentrates on five such composers and I reckon very few of the works will be at all familiar. Of them only the Jolivet may ring any bells.
His Fantasie-impromptu was written in 1953 and offers two sides of Jolivet’s musical personality. A strongly plaintive element is soon subverted, undercut, replaced (call it what you will) by an increasingly naughty infusion, on the piano, of Gershwin influence. This is almost immediately picked up by the saxophone. Together the two change the direction of the music with charming alacrity. High spirits rule.
Paule Maurice, who taught sight-reading at her alma mater, the Paris Conservatoire, contributes Tableaux de Provence, written at an overlapping period with the Jolivet. These light-heated picture-postcard portraits are warmly textured and delightfully characterised. They’re also capricious, too, with a final tableaux hinting at a bee in flight. Mule suggested a cadenza here, as it was too easy for him.
Jacques Charpentier’s Gavambodi 2 is a much tougher nut to crack. The Messiaen student wrote the piece in 1966, and its terseness, and its brittle qualities, may seem forbidding. Persistence, however, brings rewards because its angularity seems after a time almost to suggest the quality of piano raga. It slowly winds down to end, seemingly without true resolution. Intriguing, and a splendid find, splendidly performed.
Fernande Decruck (born Jeanne-Decruck Breikl Delphine) was an organist and professor at the Paris Conservatory. She married Maurice Decruck Fernande, a one-time saxophone soloist with the New York Philharmonic. I’m having a hard time working out what on earth is going on with their names. Her Sonata has some rather lovely, wistful melodies, with firefly circular lines in the central movement. The finale hints at Ravel’s Piano Concerto, no bad influence.
Finally there is Jeanine Rueff’s 1951 Chanson et passepied full of neo-baroque gentility, staccato wit and a certain self-confident flourish.
Michael Ibrahim and John Morrison respond to the challenges and demands of this mixed repertoire with aplomb and conviction. They make a fine ensemble team. I have to point out the short timing, however.
Jonathan Woolf

These musicians respond to the challenges and demands of this mixed repertoire with aplomb and conviction.