PIAZZOLLA: Four Seasons of Buenos Aires; Fugata; TROILO: Contrabajeando; ITURRALDE: Suite Hellenique; GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue; Rialto Ripples Rag – Italian Saxophone Quartet – Delos DE 3387, 56:08 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
There are now saxophone quartets or quintets all over the world, and it’s one of my personal favorite chamber ensembles. The Italian Sax Quartet was founded in 1982 and has performed worldwide, making a U.S. tour annually. They’ve recorded a previous CD for Delos, and their soprano saxist Federico Mondelci, has done another Delos album with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra of Piazzolla tango arrangements. They differ from the typical sax quartet in having a fifth member, their piano accompanist Paolo Zannini, on most of these tracks, adding a fuller orchestration to the selections.
The 22-minute Piazzolla suite here has its four movements in common with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Its complete title – Las Cuatro Estaciones Portenas – refers in the last word to the roots of tango, the port city of Buenos Aires. This is one of the most successful of the composer’s efforts to bridge classical and tango music traditions. Although there were no saxophones in the typical tango ensemble, it sounds almost as if Piazzolla had the instruments in mind when he wrote this work, it fits them so perfectly.
Iturralde was a saxophonist as a child prodigy. He created jazz flamenco in the 1960s, and in his Hellenic Suite fuses Greek folk and jazz elements. Its sections boast 7/8 time in one, a jazz waltz in another, and a movement titled Funky. George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue has been heard in many different versions, but this may be the first for sax quartet. Again, it works beautifully, the mental association of the instruments with the Jazz Age creating a perfect mood for delivering Gershwin’s catchy rhythms and melodies. Sonics are excellent, though I must admit I’ve been spoiled now by hearing several sax quartet albums in SACD surround.
– John Sunier