All Right Blues (1996), Russ Carere

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All Right Blues (1996), Russ Carere
Year of Composition: 1996     Composed for the ASQ

Review

Buffalo News, The (Buffalo, NY)
Saturday, February 9, 2002
Saxophone quartet wails despite losing UB gig
Jan Jezioro

Leaving the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's concert at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Friday evening, a patron was overheard to remark, "All that talent, and you can really tell that they love what they're doing."

That comment, though perhaps made casually, pretty much sums up what almost everyone who has attended any of the quartet's concerts over the years has felt.

This concert, the third in the quartet's series at Westminster, was titled "The Mid-Winter Blues," an idea to which Buffalonians can readily relate. The idea of the blues took on a particular poignancy, however, when the frontman, tenor Stephen Rosenthal, told the audience that the group had just learned that its residency at the University at Buffalo, now in its eighth year, is being terminated.

Rosenthal dropped this bad news on the audience just before the last scheduled piece on the program, "All Right Blues," composed by alto Russ Carere. The group then proceeded to play the pants off this jazz tour de force.

Carere treats his partners right in this piece, letting the tenor, and baritone Harry Fackelman, lead off with an up-tempo duet before his hard-blowing solo. Rosenthal returned for an extended riff over the baritone, with soprano Susan Fancher getting in her own licks before the tenor's final honk.

A well-deserved standing ovation earned the audience a couple of encores: a novelty number, played impossibly fast, and the ragtime "Southern Beauties," played with the kind of good humor that you don't usually expect from people who have just found out that they've lost their jobs.

The program had opened unexpectedly, with a short, celebratory overture by Vivaldi, followed by the "Saxophone Quartet," composed for the group in 1985 by the late UB professor Carlo Pinto. This tightly constructed quartet was convincingly played, from the solemn opening lento, succeeded by the anticipatory nervousness of the presto, through the sleepwalking andante, with its held notes over a baritone drone. The final movement had all the players soloing before the creamy-sounding unison finish.

Buffalo composer Stephen Parisi's "Nina's Samba" was a jumping, up-tempo delight. Extended solo riffs for each of the instruments highlighted this infectious number, which wanted to make you get up and dance.

Composer Frank Ticheli describes his recent composition "Out of the Blue" as a work of "urgent, jazzy, hyperactive energy," and as played by the quartet, it proved to be all of that. The opening detached figures develop into a motor-driven perpetual motion, becoming spikier before reaching a pause. Slow down-phrasing by the tenor and baritone briefly interrupt the propulsive pace, which soon increases intensity, rushing headlong to the ending, giving the listener one heck of a ride.

Miles Davis' standard "Nardis" featured the sinewy playing of Fancher, while Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" was played with breathless energy, interrupted by the required swinging interludes, nicely running out of steam at the finish.

Thelonius Monk's signature number, "Blue Monk," was definitely more happy than blue, in an up-tempo treatment that featured some tight duets and hot riffs.

All Right Blues (1996), Russ Carere
Nina's Samba, Stephen Parisi
Out of the Blue, Frank Ticheli
Nardis, Miles Davis
Blue Rondo a la Turk, Dave Brubeck
Blue Monk, Thelonius Monk
Saxophone Quartet (1985), Carlo Pinto
Saxophone quartet wails despite losing UB gig
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Saturday, December 5, 1998
Sax quartet program offers rags, riches
Herman Trotter

The Amherst Saxophone Quartet introduced its new soprano player, Susan Fancher, to the Buffalo audience in Holmes Chapel of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

They opened with the unscheduled "Two Bourrees" by Purcell, a sort of encore up front, whose festive ambience and bouncy rhythms demonstrated the big, blooming, resonant sound inherent in the chapel's very bright acoustics.

The acoustics did not, however, serve a transcription of Mozart's String Quartet in F, K590, quite so well. The outer movements were played with immaculate ensemble and balance, and with an invigorating vitality, but in the upper register the sound became quite shrill. This was even true in parts of the Andante, which otherwise seemed the most hospitable of the four movements to the saxophones' sonority.

A major part of the problem was that the quartet quite often seemed to be playing about two dynamic levels too high, with resultant loss of chamber music intimacy. The sounds of the instruments impinged and collided rather than blending.

Works written for saxes got the program back on track.

Michael Torke's 1995 minimalist "July" slid imperceptibly, almost formlessly from repetition of one expressive idea to another, rather like an extended dream sequence, part agitated and part serene.

The plan of Lukas Foss' 1985 Saxophone Quartet takes the listener through crazed bursts of sound, a long island of repose in changing chords, a skeletal segment starting in toneless key-slaps, then an ensemble of random staccato attacks, and an unexpected, highly gratifying quiet C Major chord to close. The performance, amodel of precision and incisive playing, made a strong case for the music.

Highly audience-friendly was Jongen's one-movement 1942 Quartet, Op. 122, first liquid and suave, then going through stages of melancholy with a Gallic blues twist, jocularity, and a free-flight finale combining the previous moods in casual references. It was superbly played and was wrapped up with a fine, sonorous coda.

In quartet member Russ Carere's "All Right Blues" the ensemble wailed a bit, added sonic 1940s big-band riffs, then gave everyone an improvised solo, most over an engaging walking baritone line.

The real encore, also by Carere, was "Falconer Street," a nice addition to the quartet's collection of signature ragtime pieces.

Quartet in F Major, K. 590, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
July (1995), Michael Torke
Saxophone Quartet, Lukas Foss
Quatuor, op. 122 (1942), Joseph Jongen
All Right Blues (1996), Russ Carere
Falconer Street, Russ Carere
Sax quartet program offers rags, riches
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY)
Thursday, April 23, 1998
Saxophone Quartet, going to school
Herman Trotter

Iroquois High School was host, on Wednesday evening, to the first of four concerts concluding the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's 1997 -98 season, and also to the premiere performance of a work by a member of the Iroquois senior class, Nathan Bisco.

The concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Friday in Slee Hall on the DB North Campus, at 7 p.m. May 4 in Olmsted School 56, and at 8 p.m. May 13 in the Bijou Grille.

The theme of the concerts is Fast Forward, as the quartet looks to the future with five new works, after having opened with three pieces written for them over the past two decades.

Particularly in this location, Bisco's "Down This Dark Road" became the center of attention, and deserved it. The 10-minute work is confidently developed, with a remarkably mature sense of voice movement and varying textures, plus extremely effective but not overworked use of brief silences as a structural element.

As the title suggests, the music could be considered a narrative, with a pensive, questioning opening answered with dissonances that pique the curiosity. The soprano points the way into a wandering section with mysterious side noises, followed by a fast section suggesting running away from some threat and accelerating to a brisk staccato gait.

Again the soprano points to a calmer journey with unusual low register alto sonorities, and a baritone solo guiding the way to an intensifying development and an expansively ruminating conclusion. It's an impressive Opus 1 for Bisco, given a very fine performance.

The concert had opened with Robert Mols' 1981 "Enchainment," with its warm harmonies, smooth-as-silk textures, and mixture of classical and jazz ambience, followed by David Stock's 1990 "Sax Appeal," whose four movements intriguingly evoked everything from 1940s big band flavors to a variety of noodly, pulsing, herky-jerky rhythms in incessant motion.

Nils Vigeland's 1991 "Nine Waltzes and an Ecossaise," reportedly a tribute to Schubert, saluted the composer with bizarre but not irreverent extrapolations of conventional waltz rhythms and lilts.

The immaculate ensemble stood out in the concluding new jazz arrangements, particularly Steve Parisi's attractive and tightly rhythmic "Academy Street," a soulful arrangement of Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss," and Russ Carere's "All Right Blues," with 1940s big band riffs, wonderful walking bass lines, ping-ponging of phrases among the instruments, and a wild glissando ending.

Down this Dark Road, Nathan Bisco
Enchainment (1981), Robert Mols
Nine Waltzes and an Ecossaise (1991), Nils Vigeland
All Right Blues (1996), Russ Carere
Saxophone Quartet, going to school
Buffalo News, The (Buffalo, NY)
Wednesday, March 11, 1998
Amherst Saxophone Quartet at 20: a local treasure still going strong
Jim Santella

Zen masters see the world in a grain of sand. The Amherst Saxophone Quartet creates a universe of music with the intersection of soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones.

Members of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet are soprano Salvatore Andolina, alto Russell Carere, tenor Stephen Rosenthal, and baritone Herry Fackelman.

Sunday afternoon in UB's Slee Hall, the quartet threw a 20th-birthday bash, and everyone showed up, from friends and relatives to music lovers, composers, musicians and fans to support their longevity and wondrous achievement.

A snippet of melody on soprano during Philip Glass Facade reminded me of The Impossible Dream from Man of LaMancha. It put the formidable success of the quartet in perspective. That song, subtitled The Quest, could stand for the quartet's mission statement.

Although saxophones are traditionally associated with jazz and pop, the quartet plays both traditional and contemporary chamber music, along with blues and jazz.

The quartet has recorded six albums for MCA Records, Musical Heritage Society and Mark records. These include two recordings of American music, an all-Bach album, an all-Eubie Blake disc, a collaboration with Lukas Foss and a recent jazz recording. Why is the Amherst Saxophone Quartet so successful? The members have a strong sense of humor to go along with an exacting technique and dedication to excellence.

They are a local treasure that often gets ignored when gold medals and Super Bowl talk is bandied about. They are musically of Olympian caliber.

Tenor saxophonist Rosenthal's glib commentary and lighthearted humor make the music accessible to almost anyone regardless of their musical background.

Composer Perry Goldstein was in the audience to hear the quartet's performance of his Blow! -- a rawboned tour de force that gave each player a chance to shine both in ensemble and solo sections.

The liquid sound, intonation and dynamic expressiveness inherent in the quartets mastery of chamber music were very mush in evidence in Sergei Prokofiev's sweetly appealing Romeo and Juliet Suite 2, transcribed by Fackelman.

A wry and ironic Lament on the Death of Music, written by Leila Lustig and composed for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, featured lyric-coloratura soprano Teresa Williams.

Lustig's witty text, a veritable musical whodunit, pointed the finger at every great composer from Mozart to Chopin, to Wagner and Stravinsky.

She finally concluded that the reports of the demise of classical music were greatly exaggerated.

Fun-filled encores of Carere's All Right Blues, complete with choreography, and a jaunty version of Eubie Blake's Charleston Rag sent everyone heading for the exit with a smile on their face and a light step.

Lament on the Death of Music, Leila Lustig
Romeo and Juliet Suite 2, Sergei Prokofiev
All Right Blues (1996), Russ Carere
Sounds of Africa (Charleston Rag), Eubie Blake
Amherst Saxophone Quartet at 20: a local treasure still going strong

Composer Biography

1955 —

Russ Carere has written thirteen works for the ASQ, and has recently released a solo CD of his original light jazz compositions. He has been a permanent member of the Amherst Saxophone Quartet since 1990, has been associated with the Quartet since 1982. Russ began playing saxophone in the third grade and soon afterwards added the clarinet, flute and guitar. Soon after high school he began performing in professional theatre and musicals. While attending SUNY at Fredonia he toured Poland with the Fredonia State Jazz ensemble. He has performed and toured with a long list of entertainers including Burt Bacharach, The Spinners, Temptations, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole and Kenny Rodgers, and with the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Artpark Orchestra.

Composition Notes

All Right Blues is Russ's 13th original composition for the ASQ. Opening with an ascending gliss which instantly leads into a baritone solo, the piece immediately gets into the heart of what blues and improvising is all about. Following the baritone solo, the piece modulates up a 4th into the main theme, a crisp syncopated melody with anticipated silences. Next is the improvisation section. Each player gets his and her creative juices flowing, improvising a solo over standard blues changes. The length is determined by each player. After the solo section is finished, Russ's stylistic trademark is shown off by taking a melody and breaking it down into separate fragments passed around to each player. This can also be seen along with some interesting visual effects in the ASQ's new kids, video. The final section is a typical toe-tapping riff heard in many big bands. This intensifies with the addition of wailing soprano and tenor solos. The work finishes with a downward fall (opposite the opening gliss upward), purposely not resolving to any specific pitch, but left unresolved.