Saxophone pieces inspired by Paul Klee and Jackson Pollock
While talking to the late Hans Gruber, founder of Advance Music in Germany, we discussed the fact that writing for the saxophone quartet in jazz was too often dominated by saxophone players wanting to show off their technique, a situation somewhat analogous to the abundance of arrangements for louder-higher-faster big bands, whose existence tends to obscure the more subtle work which is happening elsewhere.
Hans knew that when writing for orchestra I had always taken the view that I was writing my music for orchestra, rather than attempting to emulate how classical composers wrote, and that when writing for large jazz groups such as the conventional big band, I take the view that I should be presenting my music, rather than copying what is currently popular. Knowing this, Hans suggested that I write some music for saxophone quartet using this approach.
The compositions that resulted were four saxophone quartets inspired by selected paintings by Paul Klee. They have been played by groups all over the world, and can be heard on the website of Quadrosax, a Swiss based saxophone quartet, who included the pieces in their Klee and Kandinsky programme.
Details are below and scores and parts are available from Advance Music.
My interest in writing for saxophone quartet was developed further in 2007 when, following on from their performances of the Paul Klee pieces, Quadrosax commissioned a set of six compositions inspired by Jackson Pollock paintings, which have now also been published by Advance.
A discussion of those pieces and more on my views on writing for saxophone quartet can be found in memories arrested in space, an article on the jazzcontinuum site.
I am currently mulling over ideas for new pieces for saxophone quartet: Cavafy poems? Hans Hofmann paintings? The view from my terrace? More as ideas develop.
(A friend wonders how I can work with a view like that in front of me, but I can and do look up from the piano or computer regularly to savour the view.)
memories arrested in space
inspired by six Jackson Pollock paintings from 1947
Commissioned by QuadroSax for first performances in Switzerland, November 2007.
The paintings can be seen and the pieces heard by clicking on the titles on the Quadrosax website.
Something rich and strange
- Full Fathom Five -
An abstract sense of light
- Cathedral -
A glimpse into deep space
- Lucifer -
Anywhere is everywhere
- Phosphorescence -
The beauty of space
- Reflections of the Big Dipper -
Reverberations in and beyond
- Alchemy -
Four pieces for Paul Klee
The pieces can be heard by clicking on the titles on the Quadrosax website.
Witches of the Earth
Still Life with Dove