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Still Life / Getz, Simpson

Simpson / Amram / Pertout / Getz / Simpson
Release Date: 07/12/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1276   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Andrew SimpsonDavid AmramNathan Lincoln-DeCusatisMatthew Van Brink,   ... 
Performer:  Noah GetzAndrew Simpson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

STILL LIFE Noah Getz (sax); Andrew Simpson (pn 1 ) ALBANY 1276 (53:07)

1 A. SIMPSON The Golden Prophecy. AMRAM Prologue and Scherzo. LINCOLN-DECUSATIS Shadow Remix. 1 VAN BRINK Alto Read more Saxophone Sonata. 1 PERTOUT Riesenschritte

Maybe it is a function of the review assignments I receive, but I’m finding that some of the most interesting new music is being written for saxophone. The jazz side of the instrument’s heritage has been more accepting of progressive musical styles, so perhaps the readiness to experiment has crossed over to the classical side. Certainly there is no lack of artists willing to perform and record demanding new works, as Noah Getz—no relation to Stan of the same surname, as far as I can determine—does on this stimulating new Albany release. After all, one cannot play Glazunov all the time. Consider that this repertoire development is taking place in the context of the turbulent stylistic foment that is contemporary music, and it is easy to see why this is an exciting time to be a saxophone aficionado.

In this collection of works by “trusted composer friends and colleagues,” top billing goes to Andrew Simpson, who not only wrote The Golden Prophecy for this release, but accompanies throughout. Simpson writes in a number of genres, but has focused heavily on creating music for silent-film restorations. One can hear this in his mildly progressive work here, where the argument seems to follow a dark narrative with danger and tension suggested by the aggressive, dissonant opening. This develops into a chase and conflict in the central of the three continuous movements, and then some deliverance suggested in the final, neo-film noir conclusion. Throughout Simpson spices the work with an array of extended technical challenges.

David Amram—a name some will know for his 1960s residency with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, and others for his many film and theater scores—is a pioneer in the integration of jazz and classical styles. His 1999 Prologue and Scherzo for solo saxophone contrasts the styles, however, rather than combines them. The Prologue is classical French saxophone writing in the style of Debussy and Ibert, while the Scherzo is homage to the many American jazz greats with whom Amram has worked. The piece was premiered by Kenneth Radnowsky, but this is the premiere recording.

Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis’s Shadow Remix provides an inventive electroacoustic flavor to the proceedings and is the most outré work on the disc. The soloist plays to a recorded collage of echoes and distortions of snatches of the same music with added percussion effects, the recording presenting a deconstructed “shadow” of the live performer. At various points the manipulations sound like echoing seabird calls, sci-fi sound effects, human voices, and the like. Fascinating. Matthew Van Brink’s Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano, despite the formal title, provides the contrast in what is otherwise a rather intense program. Consisting of four continuous short movements, it starts out bouncy and upbeat over light chording in the piano, follows that with a charming treatment of a 12-tone melody, a congenially angular scherzo, and a summation and coda, all jaunty and sunny.

The gentler mood doesn’t last long. Andrián Pertout brings us back with the intensely pounded staccatos of Riesenschritte , a high-power reinterpretation of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps , and the famous Coltrane cycle progression, which the jazz great perfected in that pivotal work. Written for Getz, Riesenschritte tests even his formidable technique and that of his accompanist with its relentless energy, interrupted only briefly for a haunting interlude for piano on the progression.

Listening through speakers, one is struck by the changing perspective on the performers, some pieces fairly intimate, some presented with more space. This too is by plan, with each piece given its own “sound conception.” I find this less obvious through headphones, but regardless, the character of each work is enhanced even if the illusion of a single recital in one space is undermined a bit in the process. Simpson is an ideal accompanist on his own work and those of Van Brink and Pertout. Getz impresses throughout with his virtuosity, sensitivity, and beauty of tone. So, exciting program and great playing: recommended.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

The Golden Prophecy by Andrew Simpson
Performer:  Noah Getz (Saxophone), Andrew Simpson (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Century 
Written: USA 
Prologue and Scherzo by David Amram
Performer:  Noah Getz (Saxophone), Andrew Simpson (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Century 
Written: USA 
Shadow Remix by Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis
Performer:  Noah Getz (Saxophone), Andrew Simpson (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Century 
Written: USA 
Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano by Matthew Van Brink
Performer:  Noah Getz (Saxophone), Andrew Simpson (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Century 
Written: USA 
Riesenschritte by Andrián Pertout
Performer:  Noah Getz (Saxophone), Andrew Simpson (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Century 
Written: Australia 

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