February 2008

Dexter Gordon radioblog

Dexter Gordon

If you love Dexter Gordon, then you need to go get an earful of the great Dex at the Freedom Jazz Dance site. Host Ken Hohman presents 2 hours of Dexter Gordon which you can stream off his site. 

One of my favorite players, there's always a hint of sensuousness in his big tone. A true master.

Nice way to celebrate Gordon's birthday, which happens tomorrow. He would have been 85.

You can also see Gordon on this youtube clip, playing soprano sax.


Saxophone New Works Wiki update

A little update on how things are going at the Saxophone New Works Wiki. 

A full alphabetical listing of composers is now up. 

Individual pages are starting to appear. Recent additions include: 

Eryck Abecassis, Kees van Baaren, Lauren Bernofsky, Steven Burke, Leonello Capodaglio, Ricardo Dal Farra, James Duhamel, Michael Gurevich, Colin Homiski, Jacques Ibert, C. R. Kasprzyk, Mark Knippel, Teo Macero, James Matheson, Laurent Mettraux, Lior Navok, Étienne Saur, Allen Strange, Adam Taylor, Jim Theobald, Henri Tomasi.

Thanks to a growing number of contributors, this is becoming more and more interesting. Among the more interesting aspects are the numerous links to audio clips and composer web sites.


Teo Macero, R.I.P.

Macero recordings

Just learned that Teo Macero (1925-2008) has died in Riverhead, NY. He was 82. 

After graduating from the Juilliard school in 1953, Macero became a member of the Charles Mingus's Jazz Composers Workshop, recording with Mingus between 1953-55 playing tenor and baritone saxophones. With Mingus, Teddy Charles, and Gunther Schuller, he became interested in what would become known as the third stream, ie. combining elements of classical music and jazz. He wrote several atonal classical works that showed his jazz influence.

He is an Emmy Award winning film and television composer and was instrumental in developing Miles Davis fusion movement.

Ben Ratliff of the New York Times writes: 

"Helping to build Miles Davis albums like “Bitches Brew,” “In a Silent Way” and “Get Up With It,” Mr. Macero (pronounced TEE-oh mah-SEH-roh) used techniques partly inspired by composers like Edgard Varèse, who had been using tape-editing and electronic effects to help shape the music. Such techniques were then new to jazz and have largely remained separate from it since. But the electric-jazz albums he helped Davis create — especially “Bitches Brew,” which remains one of the best-selling albums by a jazz artist — have deeper echoes in almost 40 years of experimental pop, like work by Can, Brian Eno and Radiohead.

Coltrane's Naima

Just for the heck of it ! (Do I really need a better reason ?)

Here's a link to a John Coltrane 1957 performance of his Naima on Youtube. 


Leon Stein Quintet, 50 years ago


Leon Stein's Quintet for Saxophone and String Quartet was premiered on this date in 1958, 50 years ago. Stein (1910-2002) was a Chicago native who composed in a strongly influenced by Hindemith style. He was commissioned for several saxophone pieces by Cecil Leeson and Brian Minor

A few recordings of the Quintet exists. Among the older discs, there was "Brian Minor Plays Saxophone with the Chicago Symphony String Quartet" on Crystal Records (S 151) and "Cecil Leeson and the Lyric Arts String Quartet" on Enchanté Records (ENS-2001).

A more recent recording is by Martin Piecuch:  "Sax With Strings Attached" on Boston Records, performed with the Stravinsky Quartet and includes Alphonse Stalleart's Quintet for Saxophone and Strings, and Gerhard Maasz's Divertimento for Sopranino Saxophone and String Quartet


You can hear a few excerpts of this recording by visiting Martin Piecuch's web site. To hear the first movement of the Stein Quintet, go here


Remembering Nick Brignola

Six years ago today, Nick Brignola, one of jazz's greatest baritone player, passed away. But the music lives on. This youtube clip is a nice way of commemorating his life's work: Nick Brignola - "Like Old Times"


Today's Big Number is 164

Anyone who has seen Chris Matthews' Hardball on MSNBC recently, is aware of a feature he calls The Big Number

Well, I have my own BIG NUMBER for today.

And that number is 164 !!!

Why 164


Portrait of Hector Berlioz

164 is the age of the first ever piece written for saxophone. 

And I do mean the first ever. 

February 3rd, 1844 was the premiere of Hector Berlioz's Chant sacré, which was a showcase piece written to demonstrate Adolphe Saxe's collection of innovative instrument at a trade fair in Paris.

The piece was orchestrated for clarinet, bass-clarinet, bass saxophone, cornet, bugle & high trumpet.

Although the clarinets and brass instruments already existed, those presented on this premiere were insturments which Saxe had improved upon the existing models. But, of course, the truly new element which was introduced was the bass saxophone (it is unclear whether we are talking about a true bass saxophone or what we now call a baritone saxophone). 
Berlioz, one of history's greatest orchestrators had a high esteem for Saxe and his creations. He mentions the saxophone in his Orchestration Treatise (Grand Traité d'instrumentation et Orchestre modernes) which was first published in 1844. It is unfortunate that the saxophone arrived on the latter part of his life, after most of his important orchestral works had already been written: Symphonie Fantastique (1830), Harold en Italie (1834), Roméo et Juliette (1839). He did include the saxophone in his Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale, which was for military band. 
It is one of the many quirks of history which plagued the saxophone throughout the 19th century and which certainly played against the standardizing the use of the saxophone as a symphonic instrument, one of Adolphe Saxe's dreams. Had Berlioz, the most influential orchestrator of his time, had the saxophone available a decade earlier,  I have no doubt he would have welcomed the addition of the sax in his orchestral palette and, with his genius for orchestral coloration, would have certainly highlighted such an amazing timbre that the saxophone represents. Who knows how far the saxophone's life in the orchestra would have gone.
But that is another story. Let's be grateful that Berlioz was so closely involved in introducing the saxophone to the world. 

So, let's all raise a glass to today's big number, 
and the friendship between Saxe and Berlioz 
which gave the saxophone such a wonderful send off.