ASQ finalists create 4 intriguing entries

Works reviewed: 
Quartet for Four Saxophones (1989), Anita D. Perry
Saxophone Quartet, Chan Ka Nin
Dispositions for Saxophone Quartet, Judith Dvorkin
Quartet for Saxophones (1989), Joseph Jarman
Jilly Bean Walk, Russ Carere
Buffalo News
Buffalo, NY
Apr 8 1991
Herman Trotter

This concert presenting the first group of finalists among new compositions submitted to ASQ's "Great Competition" had a surprisingly interesting overall profile.

That's the property of a movement, a work, or an entire concert which allows it to remain etched in the mind because the music traced an easily perceptible and distinctive pattern or design.

The four works presented, successively: an unpretentious and amiable collection of miniatures; a tightly woven, tense work which moved within narrow dynamic, pitch and textural limits; a neo-classical and highly lyrical work of easy natural charm; and a freely sketched piece working from wild intervals and rhythms to progressively more consonant ground.

When the dust had settled this listener's vote went to the last two works for contributing the most interesting musical experiences of the evening.

The first movement of Quartet for Four Saxophones (in the Classical Style) by Vancouver, B.C. composer Anita Perry was a riveting listening experience. Its step-wise ascents and descents followed by held tones moved in regular modulations to uplifting new harmonic plateaus, all over a nonstop ground of short pulses by the baritone. It was beguilingly simple, yet constantly intriguing.

A good harmonic sense lifted its languid Andante to unexpected emotional levels, while the Scherzo was a real musical joke with its oompah textures brought up short by intervals purposely out of context, intentional distortion, and a sudden halt corrected (after some wisecracks) by turning the score upside down and continuing. The Finale was fast running and complex with some humor of its own, but more restrained.

Toronto composer Chan Ka Nin's one-movement Saxophone Quartet opened with angular lines formed from wide, wild interval leaps and was propelled by a nervous aggressiveness. Textures remained bright and the line often had blurred edges effected by glancing grace notes, glissando attacks and other unusual techniques. Over the l2-minute expanse it gradually retreated to a more sonorous realm, concluding with an almost warbling texture and a surprisingly effective chanted chord.

Judith Dvorkin's eight-movement "Dispositions for Saxophone Quartet" which opened the program was simple and open music, holding a certain naive charm and a few moments to perk up the senses, altogether pleasant but on a somewhat lesser level of musical expectation.

Joseph Jarman of the Art Ensemble of Chicago fame submitted his 1989 Quartet for Saxophones. It opened with slow chordal groping in a very close-knit harmonic context. Although relieved by stuttering reed speech and cascading figures at various points, the music remained rather constricted harmonically, dynamically and lyrically, leaving an uptight feeling in its wake.

An assortment of ASQ signature rags concluded the program, most notably "Jilly Bean Walk" by ASQ alto Russell Carere. The music's erratically wobbly line and oompah bass formed a nice caricature of his young daughter.

ASQ finalists create 4 intriguing entries