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Thursday, April 11, 2019

CD Review: Q4 - Uphill Struggle

Tini Thomsen (baritone sax); Nigel Hitchcock (alto sax); Fiete Felsch (alto/soprano sax); Björn Berger (tenor sax).
(Review by Lance)

Saxophone quartets are a rarity these days, at least in public. No doubt there are many who get together in front rooms, back rooms or unused bar rooms - indeed I was once a member of one myself! - but not many have a high profile. The 29th Street Saxophone Quartet and Itchy Fingers, the latter group with whom three of these players have been associated with (Felsch, who tutored Thomsen and Berger, the odd one out) and, nearer to home, Saxophonics are a quartet who also pop up from time to time.

Saxophone quartets are jazz's equivalent, I suppose, of the string quartet or the baroque ensemble, offering up intricate, intertwining lines. However, unlike the perfectly drilled big band sax section, the emphasis isn't on rich harmonies, matched vibratos or unison choruses, but on contrapuntal lines - a fugue for 'tin' horns so to speak.

When they do come together the harmonies are indeed rich but the big deal is the polyphony and the rhythmic impetus that drives them on without an actual rhythm section putting the boot in. 

Unfair to single out anyone in such an ensemble but, unlike a big band where it all hangs around the lead alto, in a sax quartet I always think the bari sax is numero uno. He/she is the anchor - drummer/bass combined as well as having to emerge from the deep to blow octopi tentacled solos which Ms. Thomsen does swimmingly. 

Tini and Nigel composed most of the tracks the latter soloing like the world-class player he is. The title track, Uphill Struggle, is only 20 seconds long but, if it had lasted longer their fingers would have either seized up or dropped off!

Sax players will love it, others will like it very much!
Lance.
Available via usual suspects.

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