Music review: Café Concerts – Sax Ecosse
Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: Café Concerts – Sax Ecosse at The Hub, reviewed by Christopher Lambton
THE sound of a saxophone quartet is slightly surprising. While a solo sax in a band can be loud and aggressive, four blend remarkably. Many sax quartets take advantage of this to play arrangements of classical repertoire written long before the sax was invented in 1846.
Not so Sax Ecosse. From the outset their programme was challenging, contemporary, vibrant, and percussive. Trying to sound like a string quartet they were not. Jonathan Dove’s Tuning In required the players to come together from corners of the stage, feeling their way towards an ensemble with limpid dissonances. After a motorik central section they wandered off again – a neat piece of theatre that from the looks of concentration on their faces was not that easy.
Sadly, they only had time for three of Ligeti’s 6 Bagatelles. These were originally for piano but the arrangement was approved by the composer. His short, precise gestures and ultra-tight rhythms were well-suited to this disciplined ensemble. This was brilliant, but slightly clinical playing. There was more warmth in Barbara Thompson’s Quartet No 3 and Michael Torke’s July, charmingly described by baritone player Lynsey Payne as post-minimalist and “pretty cool”. Joe Cutler’s Screaming 229a was an unsettling portrait of life in what must have been a very noisy flat in Warsaw.
Originally published in The Scotsman