MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Saxophone craze CHRCD166
Support us financially by purchasing from

The Saxophone Craze: Homage to Rudy Wiedoeft
Jonathan Radford (saxophone)
Ashley Fripp (piano)
rec. April 2021, Music Room, Champs Hill, UK

Rudy Wiedoeft, the so-called ‘Fritz Kreisler of the Saxophone’, was a dominant figure on the instrument in the 1920s and 30s, before the crooners and changing approaches to music encroached on his fame as a vaudeville star. Poverty and alcoholism ensued, and he died at 47. He made many discs for a variety of labels – Edison, Brunswick, Columbia, Victor, you name it, some with pianist Oscar Levant, and his art was immortalised on screen. Take a look, for example, at a Vitaphone short called ‘Rambling ‘round Radio Row’ where he and his fellow saxophonist Benny Krueger have a fine old time of it, parading their combined virtuosity in sparkling, relaxed fashion. Some of Wiedoeft’s discs have been reissued on CD and, reading the notes, young British saxophonist Jonathan Radford has listened to them.

He has constructed a legacy disc, one that encourages listeners to reflect not only on Wiedoeft’s direct but also indirect influence. Though he had recorded on clarinet with the Frisco Jass Band, which he’d formed in early 1917, Wiedoeft wasn’t a jazz musician. Radford speculates that the origin of his inspiration could have been the violin and I think that the first piece in the album, Danse hongroise makes the point. It was composed by Justin Ring and Fred Hager. Jazz and dance band aficionados will know Justin Ring, who would pop up on recordings accompanying on the piano and doing things with percussion (he was music director for the Okeh label). Curious about him for many years – his name seemed improbable in the circumstances, and I assumed it was a pseudonym – I found some charming details on the internet about his time with Hager, with whom he lived for much of his life (they’d earlier both been married).

Danse hongrois was originally written for violin, which was Hager’s instrument, but transcribed by Wiedoeft for the saxophone. It’s a rousing genre showpiece which the sax player recorded in 1924. Radford and Fripp play it with poise but no one has ever been able to match Wiedoeft’s colour, inflexions and biting articulation, any more than they could reproduce – or want to reproduce – his generous legato or the width of his vibrato. Dans l’orient is a Wiedoeft co-composition with Domenico Savino which Radford and Fripp play with real elegance, making it their own, and standing at a remove from the composer’s plaintive, even sentimentally beautiful appeal. Waltz-Llewelyn and Valse Marilyn mine the same kind of profitable material. One of Wiedoeft’s little compositional tricks was to allow the piano to introduce the work only then for himself to leap in with a rip-roaring virtuoso cadential passage. Both conform to this practice and there are deliciously lingering Ragtime moments too. In his recording of the Valse Marilyn Wiedoeft’s tone takes on a tenorial richness and takes a series of very fast runs for which he was famous.

Erwin Schulhoff’s Hot-Sonate has earned numerous recordings of late and its inclusion here is apt because, whilst any direct link to Wiedoeft is unlikely, the general lure of the saxophone as a jazz or prototype jazz instrument – and thus a sensual soloist - had enveloped Europe since the early 20s. The sleaziest movement is the third, where its sinuous jazz influences are at their most marked – elsewhere there are residual Debussian elements. Fripp plays the finale, too, with real distinction. He’s a rhythmically astute player and stylistically as on the ball as Radford.

Almost contemporary with Schulhoff’s sonata is The Threepenny Opera, five extracts from which have been arranged by the two musicians. They are Mack the Knife, Ballad of the Pleasant Life, Polly’s Song, Tango Ballad and the Cannon Song. Significantly, I think, the work is susceptible to the vocalised appeal of saxophone and violin alike – it was violinist Stefan Frenkel who, shortly after the work was produced, recorded a suite that Weill had arranged for the instrument. Shostakovich’s peppy Waltz No.2 from the Suite for Variety Orchestra has a somewhat convoluted history, and it too has been arranged by the Radford-Fripp team. This leaves Jun Nagao’s arrangement for saxophone and piano of Rhapsody in Blue. I’m never entirely convinced by arrangements of this kind, as they lack both the vaudevillian wail of the small band version or the Manhattan vista of a full orchestra. Still, this one clearly comes much closer to the former and brings an intimacy to the piece. It was only sometimes that the melody distribution caused momentary disarray in my mind.

There are fine notes and I am a longstanding admirer of the acoustic and balances obtained, as here, in the Music Room, Champs Hill.

This is a nicely constructed disc. We get Wiedoeft’s own compositions, a contemporary Jazz-Classical piece (Schulhoff) that shows how the saxophone was being used as a protagonist in cross-cultural central Europe, and a Weill standby that reinforces the sax’s vocal prominence. There is, too, a classic piece of Americana – premiered when Weidoeft’s fame was at its apex - in which the saxophone’s opening smear reproduces that of its originator, clarinettist Ross Gorman, who, as an instrumentalist shared Wiedoeft’s background in (crypto) Jazz, Ragtime and vaudeville and therefore the use of slides, runs, vocalisations, laughing and novelty effects.

In the same way that one could hardly imitate Kreisler’s tone but can honour it by playing with one’s own purer qualities, so Radford and his estimable colleague do something of the same for Wiedoeft. It should also be remembered that Wiedoeft frequently played the C-melody saxophone, as did his contemporary Frankie Trumbauer, an instrument now largely defunct except for bands reviving the music of, say Paul Whiteman or Jean Goldkette. Radford’s homage may be rather more Savile Row then the Bowery, perhaps, but he catches something of the great originator’s vitality, virtuosity and vigour.

Jonathan Woolf

Justin RING (1876-1963) - Fred HAGER (1874-1958)
Danse hongroise [4:43]
Rudy WIEDOEFT (1893-1940) - Domenico SAVINO (1882-1973)
Dans l’orient [4:22]
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Hot-Sonate (1930) [14:46]
Waltz-Llewelyn (c.1918) [3:08]
Valse Marilyn (1927) [4:10]
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
The Threepenny Opera; extracts (1928, arr. saxophone and piano by Jonathan Radford and Ashley Fripp) [11:46]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Suite for Variety Orchestra: Waltz No.2 (post-1956, arr. saxophone and piano, Radford/Fripp)
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue (1924, arr. saxophone and piano by Jun Nagao) [15:56]

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing