The other side of sax

Euphonique Saxophone Quartet performs at NYC's Church of the Epiphany on March 21: Michael Bomwell, soprano, Loren Stillman. alto, Ken Thomson, baritone, and Justin Flynn, tenor. (Copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Euponique Saxophone Quartet provided some great entertainment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on Sunday. They played a lively program of classical transcriptions mixed with new pieces, showcasing the versatility of a family of instruments that many casual listeners associate primarily with jazz and popular music.

Euphonique is the brainchild of Michael Bomwell, a versatile player (playing the Kenny G-associated soprano sax in Euphonique) who has one foot in the traditional world of saxophone, given his involvement with the Motor City Horns and experience with Clarence Clemons. The quartet’s baritone player, Ken Thomson, is the amazing, energetic saxophonist/composer from Brooklyn who plays in Gutbucket, Alarm Will S0und and the Asphalt Orchestra (and more) and teaches at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. To more Brooklyn-based saxophonists/composers Loren Stillman, on alto, and Justin Flynn, on tenor, round out the quartet.

Sunday’s program honored J.S.  Bach’s birthday this month, kicking off with an arrangement of Bach’s Sinfonia to Cantata 29, arranged by Larry J. Long, the organist at The Church of the Epiphany, which hosted the concert. Long joined the quartet on this opening number and returned to the console later in the program to play the world premiere of  Epiphany, written for the occasion by Darin Lewis.) The group also performed Bach’s Prelude and Fugue (BWV 857) from The Well-Tempered Clavier and Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben, followed by contemporary composer Alexander Hamlin‘s piece, Dance #244449, inspired by the Bach aria.

The ensemble also honored the tradition of American saxophone music, performing “Quartette (Allegro de Concert)” by Caryl Florio, which was premiered by the New York Saxophone Quartet in 1879 and is billed as the first original work for saxophone quartet by an American composer.

Euphonique also dipped into the string repertoire with a version of Four, for Tango, originally written for Kronos Quartet by the Argentine Tango composer and bandoneón player Astor Piazaolla. The saxophones brought to the fore interesting textures not apparent in the string version.

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