INKPOT#82 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: “Main Street USA” New Century Saxophone Quartet (Channel Crossings)


Main Street USA

Morton Gould (1913-1996) arr. James Boatman
Pavane Main Street Waltz Main Street March

George Gershwin (1898-1937) arr. James Boatman
Clara, Clara Oh, I Got Plenty O’Nuttin’ Bess, You is My Woman Now Oh, I Can’t Sit Down Summertime There’s A Boat dat’s Leavin’ For New York Oh Lawd, I’m On My Way Promenade Three Quarter Blues Merry Andrew

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) arr. James Boatman
(Selections from West Side Story)
I Feel Pretty Balcony Scene (Tonight) Cha-Cha/Meeting Scene/Jump One Hand, One Heart Gee, Officer Krupke Scherzo Somewhere

NEW CENTURY SAXOPHONE QUARTET
Michael Stephenson soprano sax James Boatman alto sax
Steven Pollock tenor sax Brad Hubbard baritone sax
Steve Kirkman percussion

CHANNEL Crossings CCS 9896
[55:32] full-price

by Soo Kian Hing

Saxophone quartets, though having been popular in America for quite some time, are only catching on in the local music scene not so long ago, having been regarded as nothing more than a ‘fun’ pastime for amateur band members, or having a place only in jazz bars playing black man’s music. Personally, after hearing my own friends perform ‘live’ as a saxophone quartet, I have an extremely high regard for this unique ensemble, that can be extremely hip but extremely serious at the same time!

New Century Saxophone Quartet All the more, then, would I welcome this recording, especially coming from a highly-acclaimed group, the New Century Saxophone Quartet. New Century is the only saxophone quartet to win First Prize of the Concert Artists Guild New York Competition in its 45 years, besides having a huge long string of credentials and accolades attached to it. All the pieces on this recording were arranged by the saxophonist, James Boatman, and he has taken great pain to make sure these do not turn out to be cheesy elevator music, giving technically demanding transcriptions that are extremely difficult to play well. And indeed, these pieces preserve the original spirit of the compositions, with the added pleasure of hearing them anew: there is something about a saxophone’s sound that can stop a musician’s heart.

Morton Gould Morton Gould (left) really should be heard more, being a contemporary American composer that is relatively neglected by the classical community. He wrote much music in the style of Ragtime, Jazz and Big Band, and here Boatman has adapted three attractive short pieces. The first, Pavane, was written in 1938 as part of the composer’s American Symphonette No.2. The relentless ‘walking’ rhythm in the baritone saxophone provides the drive while the soprano carries the easy-going melody, without losing a deeper nostalgia where called for, and the inne

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