“Flex” – Works for sax quartet by ROGERS, GOLDSTEIN, WANAMAKER, & WEISER – Capitol Quartet – White Pine Music

B009139FBW  “Flex” = WHITNEY ASHE: Three Movements for Saxophone Quartet; JOHN FITZ ROGERS: Prodigal Child; GREGORY WANAMAKER: Run; MARK LANZ WEISER: Song for Margot; PERRY GOLDSTEIN: Flex – Capitol Quartet (Christopher Creviston, sop. sax/Joseph Lulloff, alto sax/David Stambler, tenor sax/Andrew Dahlke, bar. sax) – White Pine Music WPM226, 50:27 (8/27/12) ****:

The Capitol Quartet is simply one of the finest classical saxophone ensembles in the world. I have had the pleasure of hearing these guys live and they are superb musicians, master showmen and very affable, friendly guys to boot! Their repertoire runs along diverse lines from swing to progressive jazz to contemporary or “cutting edge” classical. This album is of the latter category and should appeal to anyone who loves fantastic playing but also interesting modern rep.

Whitney Ashe’s Three Movements for Saxophone Quartet, for example, is a very attractive work filled with melodies and harmonies that evoke progressive jazz; even some improvisatory sounding passages but is a sultry, entertaining work. John Fitz Rogers’ Prodigal Child is quite a different deal. The somewhat nervous, stressful nature of the work is directly related to the composer’s intent on writing a “anguished response to domestic and international politics” Rogers also references one of the more apocalyptic Psalms in his program notes. Pretty serious stuff but the sound is compelling and the work requires tremendously tight ensemble playing, which the Capitol Quartet delivers.

I have heard a number of works by Gregory Wanamaker, who seems to specialize in high quality music for wind instruments in particular. Run is a fairly brief and very brisk run-like work that does echo Bartok and other composers whose works contain unusual meters and some polytonal harmonies. It is a fascinating work, though, that does not sound “academic.”

The program takes another sharp turn with Mark Lanz Weiser’s Song for Margot. This is a fairly simple but very sultry and attractive ode to Margot Bos Stambler, the late, very talented soprano from Baltimore who was also married to the Capitol Quartet’s Dave Stambler. This is a beautiful little work and means even more with that connection in mind.

The title work, Flex, by Perry Goldstein closes this program in energetic fashion. Structurally, it is written in twenty short sections that vary in intensity, in flow and drive but the internal melody is ‘flexed’ through some astonishing turns and the Quartet shows off their skills wonderfully throughout.

It would be a mistake to think that this album is hard to decipher and is very “abstract.” It is not a ‘jazz’ album but it is very enjoyable and I cannot imagine anyone who plays saxophone or who admires really tight ensemble playing not thinking this is terrific! It is!

—Daniel Coombs

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