Saxophone Quartet (1985), Carlo Pinto

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Saxophone Quartet (1985), Carlo Pinto
Year of Composition: 1985     Composed for the ASQ
I. Lento, Presto
II. Andante espressivo, Vivacissimo
III. Allegro, Andante, Allegro

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)
Monday, December 7, 1992
Riches aplenty for sax quartet — with one exception
Kenneth Young

This concert in the Nichols School Boocock Library found the Amherst Saxophone Quartet in a particularly mellow mood, though Stephen Rosenthal's usual tongue-in-cheek commentary was tinged with a bit of wry gallows humor as to the financial state of the arts in general and the ASQ in particular.

Rosenthal even threatened to go the way of Madonna and publish a book of intimate photos wrapped in mylar with the title — you guessed it — "Sax."

Artistically, there were riches aplenty, with the quartet's trademark liquid blend and easy virtuosity everywhere evident. With one exception, the program leaned toward the lighter mode, from the opening French delight of Pieme's "Introduction and Variations Sur Une Ronde Populaire" to the closing group of jazz and ragtime transcriptions. That one exception was the late Carlo Pinto's "Saxophone Quartet," composed for the ASQ in 1985.

Rosenthal stated that the group considers the work a masterpiece and Herman Trotter, music critic of The Buffalo News, admires its "strong' sense of integrity."

Perhaps it was the contrast with the lighter music, but I found the piece entirely unattractive, even granted its stark, intense and probing quality. The three movements fairly bristle with musical information and sophisticated compositional technique, but there is a sense of conscious effort throughout that leaves the impression of dutiful craft rather than inspired imagination - an admittedly subjective reaction which nevertheless trumps any "masterpiece" notions for this listener.

The piece was beautifully played by the ensemble. The other contemporary work composed for the quartet was William Ortiz's "Housing Project" (1985), a bit of musical autobiography from the composer's upbringing in the New York City Projects, It was apparently a happy childhood — no screaming graffiti, despair of poverty or sudden violence. Rather, a dreamy pastiche spiked with the occasional sound of traffic noise, then lapsing into a Latino folk tune, altogether pleasant.

The opening Pierne variations were brilliantly played, the affable diatonic tune getting some wild chromatic treatment with the theme slyly peeking through cascades of passagework. In Debussy's "Golliwog's Cakewalk," the quartet caught the rinky-tink quality of the piece, with rubato sounding like a clown playing kick-the-can.

A transcription of Bach's "Air on the G-string" was pretty enough, but the jazz numbers were much more comfortable and idiomatic — Thelonius Monk's "Round Midnight" just dripping with style, Joplin's "Paragon Rag" equally smooth and slippery — and Jimmy Giuffre's "Four Brothers" tight and bright, a close-harmony jazz scherzo.

Saxophone Quartet (1985), Carlo Pinto
Housing Project (1985), William Ortiz
Riches aplenty for sax quartet — with one exception

Composer Biography

1925 — 1992

CARLO PINTO (1925-1992) was educated at the Conservatory Benedetto Marcello in Venice, Italy and the Eastman School of Music where he received degrees in composition and piano. He was an Associate Professor of Music at the State University of New York at Buffalo where he was a member of the piano, composition and theory faculties. In addition, he was active as both a conductor and pianist and Music Director of the Greater Buffalo Opera Company.

Composition Notes

Mr. Pinto composed Saxophone Quartet (1985) for the Amherst Saxophone Quartet, at their invitation. He described the work in the following terms: "The work is intended for virtuoso saxophone playing including a quasi-cadenza in the third movement. It employs a combination of tonal and atonal systems, and although written in an apparently conventional three movement form, I consider the work as a single continuous unit, reinforced by the fact that the beginning and the end form a type of prelude and postlude. It begins in a rather somber premonitory mood and basically reflects my reactions to unsettling world conditions and conflicts at the time. The second movement paints a dreamy picture of a less turbulent nature, but this somewhat more optimistic mood is not maintained, and at the end of the third movement it returns again to the somber mood of the opening. The postlude is made of the same material as the prelude but some changes have occurred. A lingering minor chord tries to close the work and at the very last moment is faintly transformed to a major sonority."