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Mega Mega Saxophone At The University Of Kentucky

Mower / University Of Kentucky Saxophone Quartet
Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Mark   Catalog #: 50887   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Thelonious MonkGordon GoodwinRaleigh DaileyJohn Carisi,   ... 
Performer:  Don Goodwin
Conductor:  Miles OslandLisa OslandJohn Cody BirdswellKenneth Iyescas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Kentucky Mega-sax EnsembleOsland-Dailey DuoUniversity of Kentucky Saxophone Quartet,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MEGA MEGA SAXOPHONE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY Osland Sax Qrt; 1 John Cody Birdwell 5 , Kenneth Iyescas 6 , Miles Osland 2 , Lisa Osland 4 , cond; UK Wind S; 1 UK Mega-Sax Ens; 2 Osland/Dailey Duo; Read more class="SUPER12">3 UK Sax Qrt 4 MARK 50887 (66:58)

MOWER 1,5 Concerto Maxo Mosso. MONK 2 Crepuscule With Nellie (arr. Yasinitsky). GOODWIN 2 Gordon’s Goodies (arr. Osland, Pence). DAILEY 3 Alto Saxophone Sonata. CARISI 4 Saxophone Quartet No. 1. WILSON 4 Escape to the Center. PETERSON 1,2,6 _… who needs enemies?

This CD is a perfect example of how musical aesthetics have changed over the decades, and how jazz and classical interaction (and intermingling) has now moved not only into the university mainstream but beyond what such pioneers as Duke Ellington or Stan Kenton could ever have dreamed it would be. Allow me to quote a bit from the outstanding liner notes by David Demsey: “… in the most successful learning communities, the teachers also think of themselves as students—with more experience and a greater knowledge base, but still active learners who collaborate with their students….A perfect example is this recording, showing the stellar results that happen in this type of environment at the University of Kentucky. Professor of Saxophone and longtime Director of Jazz Studies Miles Osland took the lead with his colleagues….All the other musicians involved with this CD are students—but they don’t sound like it. Buoyed by the experience of sitting next to their mentors in these recording sessions, and by their daily level of instructional background, they work together to create this first-rate professional recording.”

And wild it is! There is virtually no other word to describe Mike Mower’s extraordinary Concerto Maxo Mosso for sax quartet and wind ensemble. Yes, the music is written out, but much more closely related to the kind of music that Boyd Raeburn was making in the 1940s or that Ellington and Kenton were producing in the 1950s. At times the ostinato rhythm takes charge, producing a somewhat stilted rhythmic base à la Stravinsky for the musicians to vamp on, but the underlying rhythmic feel is 100 percent jazz. Demsey claims that the sonorities and darting figures resemble the work of John Adams, but I hear it as much more Kenton-ish or even Monk-ish at times. The music develops exponentially, it seems, in several directions at once, the harmonic underpinning and rhythmic feel constantly shifting and morphing even as thematic development continues. It’s pretty much a wild, two-movement ride to the jazz-classical abyss, with a jolly ride off the edge of the musical cliff at the end.

This is followed by Monk’s own Crepuscule With Nellie, the one thorough-composed piece he wrote, meaning that within its context improvisation was either minimal or non-existent. (Charles Mingus also wrote a piece like this, Self-Portrait in Three Colors. ) As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, achieving a true Thelonious Monk rhythm is the single most difficult thing about performing his music. It always seems to have off-beat stutters within each bar that don’t “fit” the music from a normal, conventional point of view, yet it’s absolutely necessary to do so in order to play the music correctly. This version does have an improvised tenor sax solo in the middle by Carlos Espinosa Jr., but most of the piece is written out.

Even more swinging than the previous two pieces is Gordon Goodwin’s Gordon’s Goodies, described in the notes as a “greatest hits of Goodwin’s sax section soli writing through the years.” Elements of funk or soul enter the equation here, but for the most part the music sounds a great deal like some of the Modernist swing style of such bands as Toshiko Akiyoshi’s, although later on in the piece we encounter another Stravinskian passage played in staccato rhythm and scored in counterpoint.

We then move on to what is described as the most “classical” work on this disc, Raleigh Dailey’s Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano, yet the notes also mention that it is the most reliant on improvisation. This is truly jazz-classical fusion that goes “On Beyond Kapustin,” requiring musical skills of the performers that most classically trained musicians simply don’t possess. Demsey points out that in this work the improvisation sets up the more composed sections of the piece, not vice versa. In short, this is not the kind of piece that most conservatory-trained alto saxists could be able to play unless they also had some extensive jazz experience. Oddly enough, the slow second movement also had, to my ears, a bit of Monk influence, but the first and third movements are much more like post-Bop jazz, the first a bit like the music of Brubeck or Miles Davis and the last further out in the musical spectrum, somewhat like Eric Dolphy or Coltrane except with more classical structure.

Following this is Saxophone Quartet No. 1 by none other than John Carisi, a true American original and one of the founders of what became known as the “cool school” in jazz. But Carisi also studied classical composition with Stefan Wolpe (who also accepted Charlie Parker as a pupil, though Bird did not live to study with him), and this piece is one result. The opening section reminds one of some of the things Brubeck was doing, although as the piece progresses, canon and counterpoint take over its structure. Even stranger, however, is Dana Wilson’s Escape to the Center, where seemingly isolated staccato notes quickly build up a structure that becomes more and more complex. (Although less intense in expression, this piece reminded me of the music produced in the late 1970s and early 80s by the now-defunct World Saxophone Quartet, pioneers who, sadly, seemed to be playing strictly for connoisseurs and Europeans.) When the four saxes finally blend together, however, the music becomes not only less agitated but actually lyrical, moving figuratively “towards the center” of the music’s note range. It also becomes much more tonal, but this turns out to be only the eye of the hurricane; once the music breaks up again, the four saxes are swinging, much less Pointillistic, yet no less virtuosic in their drive to the finish line.

The CD ends with the very ominous-sounding … who needs enemies?, the only piece in this set that also uses a percussion section. Once again the UK Wind Symphony interacts with the Osland Sax Quartet, and the result is music that is very much on the edge of hard bop and funk jazz, yet intersecting with complex contrapuntal structures. The notes indicate that this is a piece that can be played either by improvising or non-improvising musicians, although in this performance the soloists (Ian Cruz and Dr. Dieter Rice on altos, Nathan Treadway on tenor, and Colleen Wagoner on baritone sax) all improvise and do so with excellent results.

The most difficult question to answer for yourself with this disc, then, is not whether or not you should get it—if you like jazz-influenced classical music even a little bit, you really should—but where on earth to shelve or catalog it. Is it classical? Is it jazz? As for me, I put it in the classical section because so much of it is pre-written, but I could just as easily have placed it next to Mingus’s Epitaph, J.J. Johnson’s Perceptions, or Stan Kenton’s “Innovations” Orchestra recordings of the early 1950s.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Crepuscule with Nellie by Thelonious Monk
Conductor:  Miles Osland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Kentucky Mega-sax Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1957; USA 
Venue:  Studio at the Courts 
Length: 5 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Gordon's Goodies by Gordon Goodwin
Conductor:  Miles Osland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Kentucky Mega-sax Ensemble
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Studio at the Courts 
Length: 7 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Sonata for alto saxophone & piano by Raleigh Dailey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Osland-Dailey Duo
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Studio at the Courts 
Length: 20 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Saxophone Quartet No. 1 by John Carisi
Conductor:  Lisa Osland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Kentucky Saxophone Quartet
Written: 1965 
Venue:  Studio at the Courts 
Length: 7 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Escape to the Center, for saxophone quartet by Dana Wilson
Conductor:  Lisa Osland
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Kentucky Saxophone Quartet
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1989 
Venue:  Studio at the Courts 
Length: 5 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Untitled CD-ROM Track by Unspecified
Period: Modern 
Concerto Maxo Mosso, for saxophone quartet & wind ensemble by Mike Mower
Performer:  Don Goodwin (Piano)
Conductor:  John Cody Birdswell
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Osland Saxophone Quartet
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Studio at the Courts 
Length: 12 Minutes 33 Secs. 
...Who needs enemies?, for saxophone quartet & wind ensemble by Russell Peterson
Conductor:  Miles Osland,  Kenneth Iyescas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University Of Kentucky Mega-sax Ensemble
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1998 
Venue:  Studio at the Courts 
Length: 7 Minutes 30 Secs. 

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