Since inception, the Origin Classical imprint has existed as a stylistic hinge between classical music and jazz. Defying genre definition, Origin Classical's archive should properly be considered simply music?that which defies category. Only a single release, Linda Tsatsanis and John Lenti's And I Remain: Three Love Stories?Music of the Seventeenth Century for Voice and Lute (Origin Classical, 2009), deals with what might be considered the "classical repertoire." The remainder of releases are by musicians simply playing music.
The saxophone quartet, as a performing entity, is nothing new. They are the reeds- equivalent of the string quartet, though more perfect. With the majority devoted to jazz, there have been many fine groups, including The World , Rova, New Century and Prism Saxophone Quartets. Enter now The Free Range Saxophone Quartetm, which is intent on raising jazz composition to the level of classical chamber music. Its repertoire is eclectic, with jazz standards (Thelonious Monk's "Crepuscule With Nellie"}} and commissioned pieces ("Saxophone Quartet").
The Quartet's approach is layered and smooth. "Crepuscule with Nellie" is Monk as smooth meringue, the pianist's hard edges softened in the lower reeds. The "Saxophone Quartet" is a three-movement piece characterized by these same shifting layers of Sound, investigating older musical forms passed through the prism of newer musical ideas. Never is the Quartet harsh, nor does it try so hard that its effort spoils the result. This is very listenable music.
But it is the two Bix Beiderbecke compositions closing the disc?"In the Dark" and "In a Mist"?that reveal exciting project possibilities. Beiderbecke, a poor music reader at best, did possess and keen ear for melody and tradition. "In a Mist" was first recorded by the cornetist on September 9. 1927. Beiderbecke had been thinking of the composition which reveals, harmonically, the influence of the French Les Six group. The Free Range Saxophone Quartet captures both this sophisticated harmonization and the spirit of the "Jazz Age." So compelling is this Quartet's arrangement and performance of this and Beiderbecke's "In the Dark," that they conjure the smell of unfiltered cigarettes and gin, clinging to perfume and bay rum.