WSC Day 4

Today was great.  I woke up early, but felt refreshed and ready for more music.  I thought I would pace myself a little better though and look more carefully at my options.

I started at 10:30am with some alto sax/clarinet duo pieces presented by a pair of musicians from the USA.  They played Canfield’s Le Petit Duo, Glaser’s Duo for Clarinet and Alto Saxophone and Etezady’s Glint.  It was something you might hear at an advanced university student recital – at least it was reminiscent of things I used to hear back in the day.  The playing was brilliant and the pieces all accessible yet unpredictable.  Just what I was looking for.

Next up was a double bill by students from the New England Conservatory.  First the Saxophone Quartet played Capriccio by Felipe Lara, a Brazilian composer.  Again, this was an accessible piece but interesting rhythmically, melodically and in terms of texture.  This piece was followed by a solo premiere of Christian Lauba’s new etude (19th) called Partyta.  Man, this guy gets a lot of “play” for a composer of solo sax pieces!  It was a pretty cool piece, and a little reminder of how much work I have yet to do as a player.

At 12:30pm I went to a concert of new works by French composer Thierry Alla.  He composed a suite of six pieces for each of six different instruments of the saxophone family, including two with electronics.  The saxophonists all looked to be about university age but wow could they ever play.  (I’m so behind!).  This was music more along the lines of what I’ve been hearing a lot but the pieces were well-composed as well as played.  I enjoyed it.

At 1:00pm I went to a show by Honduran saxophonist Ariel Lagos with his guitarist and drummer/percussionist partners.  This music was refreshingly along the jazz and worldbeat lines.  Lagos played with a smooth mellow tone in music that seamlessly blended funk, latin rhythms and swing.  It was melodic and groovy and obviously heartfelt.  The amplified nylon strings were a welcomed variation on the usual jazz guitar.

I went from the main venue into the city to take in an outdoor show featuring more fantastic latin music.  It was presented by Orquestra Mi Sol based out of Paris.  I’m not sure what the group had to do with the WSC maybe except that the leader played soprano sax once or twice.  This was a large mixed group with lots of your standard jazz/latin band horns and rhythm section but with the inclusion of clarinets, flutes and euphoniums.  It was also conspicuous for the absence of guitar and piano.  Great charts!  (And I was grateful for the emerging cloud cover).

Back at the main venue after a bit of a break (and a fantastic sandwich bought near Notre Dame Cathedral), I attended a concert presented by French saxophonist and teacher Jean-Michel Goury.  I really wish I could say I enjoyed this but endured it is more like it.  I think at another time I would’ve appreciated most of it but at this point I’m done with this kind of music – see yesterday’s post.  Or see below, actually.

It seems like to be a respectable composer of new music for saxophone you have to include the following elements: seemingly random slap-tongue used to access (which is too bad because it’s a cool sound), blaring and honking multi-phonics also used to access (and not like the tasteful chords they can sound like), and screeching altissimo also used to access.  In fact, “access” is probably key to the whole mess.  It’s not just these rackets that all-too-often reach painful decibel levels (is there any NEED?) but the absence of contrast.  These kinds of techniques and gestures may technically be varied – there are lots of ways to create strident multi-phonics, for example –  but the overall result in terms of composition is much like a ‘B movie’ where you know what’s going to happen after the first couple scenes OR like a paperback crime novel – once you’ve been through one you’ve pretty much been through them all.

I was going to attend a “crossover” concert in the auditorium, which looked very interesting in the program, but there was too long a line-up and I was pretty much done after the last show.


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