Nardis, Miles Davis

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Nardis, Miles Davis
Year of Composition:    
Kellogg Johnson

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

Composer Biography

1926 — 1991

Davis, Miles (1926-1991) from his earliest performances, showed a very personal approach to jazz. When others were concerned with virtuoso passages, Davis would tend towards a more introspective and sophisticated lyricism. He incorporated the pause, silence, and space as part of his means of expression. Davis performed as an eighteen year old with Charlie Parker, but in 1955 it was a quintet with saxophonist John Coltrane that brought him recognition and popularity.

Composition Notes

In 1959, Miles Davis recorded Kind of Blue which continues to hold a special place in the hearts of many jazz lovers. Miles Davis was successful in making the transition from bop to cool and on to modal jazz. In 1970, he earned a Grammy for Bitches’ Brew, a jazz/rock fusion of modal, electronics, and free jazz. He had a special ability to sense new directions, and then popularize the new style. Tunes such as Nardis and Milestones are typical examples.