American Record Guide
, February 2007
This is a well-stocked program of saxophone music that has a number of classics for the instrument-the Creston and Muczynski sonatas and Hartley's sonata for baritone sax. Amy Quate (b 1953) brings us the Light of Sothis, based on the Egyptian name for the star Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens. The three movements-'Grace', 'Passion', and 'Faith'are very tonal, repetitive, slightly minimalist, and pleasant enough, but certainly no indelible impression is made.
Rorem's Picnic on the Marne-Seven Waltzes for Alto Saxophone and Piano is lovely, lyrical, and slightly manic in several movements, most notably the first, 'Driving from Paris'. When we come to 'A Bend in the River' things get a little more tranquil. 'Bal Musette' takes us back to the stylized dancing of the city, while 'Vermouth' reminds us of, well, just what you would think. 'A Tense Discussion' resolves in 'Making Up', and finally we are taken on a 'Ride Back to Town'. The music is all inventive and easy to digest, though again, like a lot of Rorem's work, there is nothing especially memorable here.
The Hovhaness Suite for Alto sax and guitar is soulful and song-like, with a hint of melancholy in its plaintive gestures. This three-movement, eight-minute work is a study in motivic brevity-and quite frankly, a little boring: mature Hovhaness, but not inspired. Rudy Wiedoeft was an early exponent of the instrument, and his 1923 waltz is a delightful example of his work-dated for sure, but sparkling and relaxed in execution.
While this is a very good program overall, I am not enamored of Mr Mitchell's sound, sometimes harsh and almost pop-oriented. There are some uneven passages (an easy thing to happen considering the flexible and super-smooth action of the saxophone's keying system), and he lacks the refinement of so many current players reviewed in these pages. In concert I would have been most pleased to hear this, and not unhappy even with the saxophone, but repeated hearings will not, I fear, sit well. This is a good way to get all of this music in one place, but there are finer recordings of almost all of these pieces.