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Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, March 2012

Energy is the other major element in many of these pieces, and that is certainly the case in Elias Tanenbaum’s (1924–2008) Saxophone Quartet. Driving, irregular rhythms and complex counterpoint are its most easily appreciated qualities, though a reflective central section, rich in complex harmonies, provides respite without reducing the tension.

David Sampson’s (b.1951) 2002 Breathing Lessons takes its cue from literature…Inspired by this darkly humorous study of marriage and family, the composer has created a set of short portraits: reflections on the relationships and inner lives of the protagonists. The speechlike scenes, pairing the four instruments in free-form representation of conversation—disjoint, or lively, or combative—alternate with lyrical interludes inspired by significant thoughts of the characters. …this is more engaging as a musical concept than I would have imagined.

Dexter Morrill’s…Six Bagatelles…was written to showcase the breadth of the New Hudson’s affinities. The form is classical, as are three of the middle movements. The focus in the outer movements…is jazz, with an improvised cadenza leading from the bluesy fifth trifle to the sixth, which also offers improv opportunities for the composer’s friend, tenor sax player David Demsey.

The last two works reflect the best- and least-known in saxophone literature. The performers obviously have great fun juxtaposing the two rich sonorities in the unpublished 1961 Sauter work.

The New Hudson Saxophone Quartet is as versatile and virtuosic…Said versatility includes the ability to match sound and blend to the piece, from the smooth silk of the Ewazan to the gritty in-your-face texture of the Tanenbaum. If your taste runs to the new and sometimes challenging, this disc is warmly recommended. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Patrick Hanudel
American Record Guide, November 2011

The New York-based New Hudson Saxophone Quartet continues their commitment to new music with a collection of world premiere recordings in the Naxos American Classics series.

The Sauter Piece, set in four movements with specific metronome markings, recalls the stoic yet quietly expressive chromatic language of William Schuman and Vincent Persichetti. The integration of the tuba into the saxophone quartet is seamless and natural, and Mendoker is a formidable presence…The Ewazen Rhapsody revels in the nostalgic beauty and infectious rhythm characteristic of its composer.

…the members play with great enthusiasm and reliable technique…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Cinemusical, August 2011

The New Hudson Saxophone Quartet is one of the premiere ensembles of its type commissioning many new works specifically for this chamber genre. The group features Paul Cohen, soprano sax; Avi Goldrosen, alto sax.; David Demsey, tenor sax.; and Tim Ruedeman, baritone sax.. All have backgrounds performing with orchestra and bring that experience to the music they feature in concerts. The five works presented on this release are all world premiere recordings made in 2006 and 2007.

Though Elias Tanenbaum’s name will be somewhat unfamiliar to most, his extensive catalogue of works has brought him many performances throughout the world. He fares less well on disc so his Sax Quartet from 1999 is a welcome addition. It is one of his more accessible works taking its inspiration from jazz. The work is in an arch form with a thrilling “A” section of exciting rhythmic vitality. The contrasting “B” section is a more lyrical reflection while “C” recalls a little of mid-1960s jazz with its interesting jagged lines and harmonic support. Tanenbaum wrote two works for the quartet and this is the second of those pieces. The composer passed away in 2008 unfortunately before being able to see this release come to light. The CD takes its title from a 2002 work by David Sampson. Breathing Lessons was commissioned by another fine ensemble, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, and the composer introduced this seven-movement piece to this group which soon began programming it in concerts. The music is inspired by an Anne Tyler book of the same name. As the work plays, it is no wonder the musicians were drawn to it. This powerful piece explores fully the ranges of the instruments as well as the amazing colors that can be created. It is cast in series of scenes and interludes. One particularly striking moment is in “Interlude 1” where it almost sounds like someone has switched to an English horn. In these more expressive moments the piece is at its most remarkable and the performances are beautifully shaped. Even when the jazzier, jagged rhythmic lines appear in the contrasting “Scenes”, the ensemble finds way to bring more warmth to how things are articulated. Some of the fast scalar passages are equally breathtaking, especially when the whole ensemble is zipping through them. The work makes up about a third of the disc’s playing time.

David Morrill (b. 1938) is one of the leading computer music composers of his generation having developed numerous works over the years, many of which appeared on the Centaur label. One might say that the Six Bagatelles are a more “mainstream” composition. Each brief bagatelle runs through different aspects of the saxophones jazz and classical sides. The outer bagatelles are dedicated to classic jazz musicians Harry Carney and Zoot Sims and feature some great baritone and tenor saxophone writing. The soprano and alto saxophone get their own “Duet” in the third bagatelle. “Scales,” the second bagatelle, has some great rapid finger work for the full ensemble. One thing that Morrill’s work does do is provide listeners with shifts in color by dropping out the full ensemble for some of the movements here. The other nice thing about the work is that it travels through accessible musical language that shifts from a contemporary sound to the lilting and catchy melody of “Mediterranean,” the fourth bagatelle with a delicious “Blues Interlude” with rich colors following. Overall this is one of the most enjoyable pieces on the disc with its brief musical colors and it is helped by its positioning on the recording perhaps.

All the other works aside, the one that grabbed this reviewer’s attention was the one by Eddie Sauter (1914–1981). Jazz aficionados will recognize the name from the composer’s work on some classic Stan Getz albums in the 1960s. Sauter’s fascinating work on classic albums such as Focus and a later film score to Mickey One are tantalizing remainders of one of our most unique musical orchestrators and jazz colorists. The “Piece for Tuba and Saxophone Quartet” is from 1961 and was written for Harvey Philips and the New York Saxophone Quartet and is a real rarity as it was unpublished and likely remained unperformed until the present group resurrected it. As such, the four-movement work is more abstract in its musical materials taking its dramatic impulses from the contemporary classical arena and absolute music. There are no subtitles for the movements, just tempo designations that are in a slow-fast-slow-fast breakdown. The writing is what one would expect from the composer and though things veer off into stranger territory, the piece still is not as avant-garde as its historical musical period would suggest. Sauter tends to take small motivic ideas and then toss them through the ensemble creating interesting color results along the way. The tuba adds an interesting counterpoint to the sax sound itself, but is not a “solo” instrument the way one might expect it being more integrated, as much as one could, into the fabric of the music. Scott Mendoker does a fine job with this piece and it is surprising how well the brass sound melds into the texture at times. When all is said and done, this remains a curious work that employs the sort of stylistic gestures of Sauter’s jazz orchestrations in a more classical setting that is further proof of the composer’s understanding of texture. Perhaps Philips had hoped for a more virtuoso showpiece and dropped it after its premiere, but it still is a well-crafted piece that will make for fascinating repeated listening whose jazz-connections seem far more natural in inadvertent contrast to the other music on the disc.

The final work on the disc is Eric Ewazen’s Rhapsody for Saxophone Quartet (2004). The piece features a strong thematic idea that is filled out with some rich harmony and is a more classically-shaped piece filled with great energy. It is a real showpiece for the ensemble and makes for a fitting conclusion.

For those newer to chamber music, saxophone quartet music is less of a stretch than one might think. The associations of the instrument with popular music already lend itself to a different sort of comfort than more traditional quartets. In the sort of stellar repertoire chosen, the instrumental timbres are really allowed to shine, especially as they are recorded here. The works are all performed with a sort of familiarity that comes from frequent performances of the music coupled with close work with the composer’s in rehearsals. The release will be a great way for those fortunate enough to hear the group in concert to have a great memento. For the rest, it Is a perfect disc of contemporary music of one of our premiere chamber music ensembles playing pieces that are worthy of attention.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2011

Given the title ‘Breathing Lessons’, the disc contains five world premiere recordings of works composed over the past fifty years. Starting in the world of the crossover composer, Elias Tanenbaum, a onetime student of Martinů, the Sax Quartet was written for the New Hudson quartet in 1999 when he was already seventy-five. You can feel the jazz influences of his upbringing, but it is the most modern sounding of the music on the disc, its jerky rhythms needing much in performance concentration. The seven sections of Breathing Lessons comes from the experienced hand of David Sampson, a major contributor to the orchestral repertoire with commissions from many leading ensembles and soloists. The title has nothing to do with music, but is the name of the book which inspired the often dark and sad work. In the 1970’s Dexter Morrill established one of the first mainframe computer studios in the world, and it has been in this field of music he has become internationally recognized. Six Bagatelles, written for the disc’s performers in 2004, is a series of pieces with descriptive titles, the second formed from scales; the fourth reflecting the warmth of the Mediterranean, while the finale is a likeable Riffs. Eddie Sauter, with his jazz background, provides an usual combination of Tuba and Saxophones, while Eric Ewazen puts his symphonic credentials to good use in a pleasing Rhapsody. It all sounds superbly played, the disc primarily aimed at lovers of saxophone where I hope it will enjoy much success.

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