The New Hudson Saxopone Quartet – Quartet at the CrossroadsThe New Hudson Saxophone Quartet – Quartet at the Crossroads

The New Hudson Saxophone Quartet has recently released Quartet at the Crossroads on Ravello Records. The NHSQ features Paul Cohen on soprano, Avi Goldrosen on alto, David Demsey on tenor and Tim Ruedeman on baritone saxophone. The four talented and seasoned saxmen perform the works by composers or the American Composers Alliance.

Eleven tracks cover the five compositions penned by Lukas Foss, Richard Brooks, Gregory Hall, Barbara Jazwinski and Michael Veloso. This eclectic mix of modern compositions allows the ensemble to dig into technically challenging and thought provoking performances. At all times, the quartet sounds focused both in sound and intonation as well as balance and blend. This is truly a world-class ensemble worthy of further recognition.

According to the liner notes, “The New Hudson Saxophone Quartet possesses a rare combination: a dedication to playing accessible new American music, combined with a beautiful, blending saxophone sound…They bring their widely varied experiences toward a dedication to beautiful ensemble, a pure sound, and the ability to turn on a stylistic dime.”

The opening Saxophone Quartet in four movements by Lucas Foss features punctuated yet seemingly disjointed lines. The execution is pristine and therefore the piece somehow makes sense. The ensemble seems to channel anger, joviality and a host of other emotions during the course of Foss’s piece.

Richard Brooks Four-Play opens with a clever-sounding manufactured echo in the four saxophones’ ostinati. The ascending arpeggio then are echoed and passed through the section in some very inventive writing by Brooks – again flawlessly executed by the quartet. The melody is passed from Cohen on soprano, then Demsey on tenor ultimately blossoming into a very angular counterpart between all four saxophones. Cohen’s soprano on top seems to be the glue holding it all together until the final trill and two staccato notes which end the piece.

Gregory Hall’s Fantasy, Scherzo, Mountain and Fugues weaves in and out of tonal centers and recognizable harmonies countered with bursts of dissonance. The effect is appealing and allows the legato or sustained sounds of the ensemble to be appreciated by the listener. Mountain possesses a lyricism more prevalent here than elsewhere on Quartet at the Crossroads ¬– a definite high point for this listener.

Images in Blue by Barbara Jazwinski offers a more sustained introduction from the four saxophones. Initially the subtle soprano lead is less striking than the harmonies. Shortly into the piece, the voices begin to work more independently and the soprano takes a more commanding roll. The independence of parts and contrasting dynamics make for a very enjoyable listening experience on Images in Blue.

Finally, Parquet Deformation by Michael Veloso returns to a more punctuated and rhythmic passage passing through the saxophones. The constant pulse keeps things moving forward all the way to the end of this piece. It is interesting that the unison rests feel a bit like an engine firing on three cylinders. The ensemble chug on and on but the “engine” never seems to get up to full speed. The rhythmic effect is intentional and noted in the CD’s text this way: “The piece is a very simply structured series of loops” each saxophone repeats a slightly stilted four-bar phrase, and after every loop one player does something different. Halfway through, the opening figure is introduced in reverse…”

In the end The New Hudson Saxophone Quartet has performed some very challenging music on Quartet at the Crossroads. The compositions by the composers of The American Composers Alliance are beautifully and respectfully handled by the quartet of Cohen, Goldrosen, Demsey and Ruedeman –all fine saxophonists!

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