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Thursday, December 14, 2023

Saxophilia – Metamorphosis (Redshift, 2023)

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

The all saxophone quartet of Saxophilia moves into very interesting sonic territories, but yet, more or less, not so familiar for this reviewer. Performing tracks from five composers, the quartet of Julia Nolan on soprano sax, Kris Covlin on alto sax, David Branter on tenor sax and Colin MacDonald on baritone sax, travels the distance between 1960’s minimalism and modern composition quite easily.

At first listen I was not at ease with listening to many small scale works from an instrument that carries such a big burden in jazz history. Still, many times, my idea of how a saxophone should sound is fixed unfortunately. Adding to the aforementioned remark, trying to present works from five composers (Fred Stride, Violet Archer, Beatrice Ferreira, Rodney Sharman and the quartet’s own David Branter) seemed like taking the risk –and a blessing at the same time- of playing in such a diverse field of sounds that it could sound like a mish-mash of diverse elements that have no common ground. But they shouldn’t after all.

Not in this case though. I’m not sure if the title, Metamorphosis, is a hint that the quartet transformed the pieces, but I must certainly comment that they made them their own. It is a fact that you can much more easily understand by listening, rather that reading about, it, but there is a certain relevance between the works. Saxophilia offers new identities to the songs while keeping the core elements of them. Rich, playful timbres and low-key polyrhythmic –solo and collective- voices come from the saxophones.

The focus is on the collective playing, a choice that allows the harmonies and melodies to come forth in unison. Above all there’s a sentiment of unaffected joy, one that derives directly from the love for the music they perform. It may sound trivial but is not at all. Especially on this current day.

Listen and buy here: