12th Street Rag, Euday L. Bowman

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12th Street Rag, Euday L. Bowman
Year of Composition: 1914    
Harry Fackelman


Buffalo News, The (Buffalo, NY)
Tuesday, April 16, 1996
Jazz and ragtime, America's classical music
Jim Santella

Amherst Saxophone Quartet
All-ragtime, all-jazz program.
Monday in the University at Buffalo's Slee Hall, North Campus. To be repeated at 7 p.m. April 24 at Buffalo Seminary, 205 Bidwell Parkway, and at 8 p.m. April 25 in the Bijou Grille, 643 Main St.

"Any music played on a saxophone is immoral," a 1925 Time magazine article warned. That's the same kind of wrong-headed thinking that condemned the waltz as being immoral when it initially replaced the minuet.

Consider this: at the turn-of-the-century, ragtime was played only in sporting houses. Monday night, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet was running the changes around such ragtime classics as "12th Street Rag" comfortably ensconced in the University at Buffalo's Slee Hall.

Saxophones, ragtime and jazz! It was a lucid combination of art form and fun - virtuosity and gutbucket emotion. Far from being immoral, it was immortal music.

As spokesman and tenor saxophonist Stephen Rosenthal reminded us, it was French impressionist composer Claude Debussy who first recognized the vitality and creativity of ragtime and its progeny, jazz, by celebrating this uniquely American contribution in his "Golliwogg's Cakewalk."

Jazz and ragtime are destined to be American classical music. Chamber ensembles like the Amherst Saxophone Quartet demonstrate that Adolph Sax's contraption of bent tubing produces music that even rivals some of Beethoven hallowed string quartets.

First, the technique and musicianship of the quartet is impeccable. Everyone plays in tune through the most difficult ensemble passages, and the blend is creamy smooth. Additionally, they combined improvised and written solo passages seamlessly.

Finally, their choice of material to play was expansive and knowledgeable. It included ragtime composers like James Scott and plenty of Eubie Blake as well as swing-era composer Duke Ellington and bopper and birth of cool innovator, Miles Davis.

A Four Brother-ish "When the Saints Go Marching In" turned the New Orleans anthem into a modern jazz vehicle with its extended chords and harmonies.

"Golliwogg's Cakewalk" was reminiscent of Gershwin's "American in Paris," with a French accent, while James Scott's "Ophelia Rag" featured tight ensemble work and a buoyant sound.

Davis' 6/8 modal "All Blues" elicited exciting solos from altoist Russ Carere and Sal Andolina on soprano sax, while Rosenthal and bari player Harry Fackelman anchored the stepwise harmony.

Ellington compositions included "Sophisticated Lady" and "Solitude" as well as "Prelude to a Kiss." Immaculate music played with warmth and passion.

12th Street Rag, Euday L. Bowman
Golliwogg's Cakewalk, Claude Debussy
All Blues, Miles Davis
Jazz and ragtime, America's classical music