Music Reviews : Recital Wraps Up Redlands Sax Fest


Dedicated to new music for saxophone and a computerized wind instrument known as the Yamaha WX11 MIDI wind controller, the two-day New Sounds Music Festival at the University of Redlands concluded on a high note last weekend.

A Sunday afternoon recital at Watchorn Auditorium by the PRISM Quartet--Reginald Borik, soprano saxophone; Michael Whitcombe, alto saxophone; Michael Levy, tenor saxophone; and Timothy Miller, baritone saxophone--provided an enticing program of recent music.

In the world premiere of Kevin Malone’s eclectic “Window on the World,” three imaginative movements intelligently utilize the wind controller, blending electronic sounds with carefully constructed lines for solo soprano saxophone. The collage of percussive sounds and finely honed, tonal motives refreshingly maintain a humorous character, especially in the second, purely electronic movement “Acid Rain Dance.”


Another premiere, Brad Ellis’ “Tooka-ood Zasch,” presents recorded drummings and various pop accompaniments for the players who alternate between wind controllers and saxophones. The visceral, rhythmic texture that results proves particularly accessible and satisfying.

The most remarkable examples of virtuosity came with works for standard saxophone quartet, most notably in the premiere of the erratic “Move!!!” by John Costa. Other quartets which similarly awed include the sizzlingly busy “Backburner”(1988) by Frank Ticheli and Russell Peck’s bluesy “Drastic Measures”(1979).

Of several pieces by Levy, who also served as festival director, the two-movement Quartet (1987) makes the most academic statement. His other quartets, “No Other Time”(1990) with electronics and “Lament”(1986), demonstrate a pleasant jazz fusion sensibility.

A transcription of Warren Benson’s “Aeolian Song”(1960), originally for alto saxophone and wind ensemble, adequately demonstrates the wind controller’s function as orchestration tool. Three solo pieces, Michael Ruszczynski’s rapid-fire “Cafe at Night” (1989), for alto sax, Levy’s whimsical “Tenor Indigo” (1988) and Nicholas C.K. Thorne’s introspective, atonal “Aria Improvisations” (1978), both for tenor sax, competently completed the program.