The Saxophone Quartet
FOUR

About Us


“Could this be "Supersax" re-inventing themselves after entering the witness protection program?  These cats are dazzling in every way!  …Beautiful, intelligent, soulful, swinging and all done with the highest caliber of performance.” (Noah Peterson, KPSU Radio Portland), "Bravo!" (Jean-Marie Londeix after FOUR’s concert in Ljubljana), “Strong writing and solos, coupled with rhythmically solid ensemble playing and lots of energy to spare.” (Frank Bongiorno, Saxophone Journal),“With Friends Like These is an enjoyable listen.” (Robert Iannapollo, Cadence Magazine), and “I particularly enjoyed the performances by FOUR. Kudos to Mark Watkins for his great arrangements and to Brent Jensen for his sophisticated alto solos.” (Farrell Vernon, North American Saxophone Alliance, Bangkok Congress Report).

 

From the Gene Harris to the Villa Celimontana Jazz Festivals and locations around the world including England, Austria, Slovenia, Thailand, Italy, the US, Singapore, Germany, Iceland, Scotland, Luxembourg, and The Philippines FOUR is received by exuberant audiences for their impeccable performances of music originating entirely from within the group. They were selected to perform on the "all star" concert of best performances at the World Saxophone Congress in St. Andrews, Scotland in 2012. FOUR's music ranges from the bebop Hot House and Ornithology to their arrangement of Marcus Miller’s funk tune Snakes, the contemporary maintstream Freer ör Edgier, and the EST tune Tuesday Wonderland to the Latin Felices para siempre. Walrus Music and Dorn Publications carry FOUR’s original compositions. Copyright permissions have recently been procured for many of their arrangements of standards and are published by FOURjazz (see the Tune List page). In addition to FOUR's performance schedule, they have worked residencies at institutions such as Ransit University, Thailand; The University of the Philippines; and Landeshauptstadt Hannover Musikschule, Germany. July 2015 sees them departing again for concerts and residencies abroad. This time to Reykjavik, London, Strasbourg, Luxembourg City, Hanover, and elsewhere.

 

Their first CD, With Friends Like These was released in 2006; their second, On a Warm Summer’s Evenin’, from Jazz Hang Records in 2010. Ed Calle (Miami Saxophone Quartet and two-time Grammy nominee) comments, “Supported by rock-solid jazz and orchestra ensembles, On a Warm Summer’s Evenin’ is a celebration of diverse musical styles by an inventive writer and FOUR outstanding saxophonists who are as equally at ease unselfishly serving the demands of an ensemble as they are navigating the rigors of solo duties. To all involved, thank you for the music and the artistry. Godspeed FOUR.” Their third CD, FOURway Stop, was released in June 2012 (Jazz Hang). Jeff Coffins wrote a wonderful prose poem about this CD. Here are the last few lines: glorious, bright moments bursting and boucning with fullness and joy. when is 2+2 more than the sum of it's pats? listen, and here you will hear. four sounding like five or more…. FOUR's most recent CD, Got Somethin' to Say, came out through Jazz hang in June 2015. Caleb Chapman, president of The Jazz Education Network wrote, "Similar to their previous three releases, “Got Somethin’ to Say” again showcases the expansive vocabulary and dexterity of Watkins, Smith, Mayhew, and Gudmundson. FOUR assembles a captivating setlist of Watkins’ extraordinarily inventive compositions mixed with a few well-known themes, and a Gudmundson original…. I spent several years learning the art of jazz from the members of FOUR. On this latest release, class is in session once again. Take note because these guys definitely “Got Somethin’ to Say”!

 

MARK WATKINS (soprano/alto)


Dr Mark Watkins received his degrees from Brigham Young University (cum laude) in saxophone performance and Indiana University in five woodwinds. He has studied saxophone with C. Raymond Smith, Eugene Rousseau, Daniel Deffayet and Yushi Ishiwata. He has been Director of Woodwind Studies at North Dakota State University and is currently Director of Jazz Studies at Brigham Young University–Idaho.

Watkins has been a member several significant ensembles including the Eugene Rousseau Big Band and David Baker’s Jazz Ensemble. He has performed throughout the US, in more than 15 countries, and with or hosted a veritable who’s who list of renowned artists both jazz and classical from Bob Mintzer to Lars Mlekusch. In 1994 he was offered a position in the premier Washington DC based Army Field Band but was unable to enlist due to visual disability. As a student in the 1980s, Watkins was a member of the National Intercollegiate Band and winner of the Brigham Young University concerto competition. He performed the principle clarinet book for the Kennedy Center’s reconstruction of Leonard Bernstein’s last musical 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. and, with the Dominic Spera Jazz Ensemble, Dr. Watkins was a featured soloist on the PBS Special, Big Band Extravaganza, aired nationally. He has performed in recital with artists such as Martin Schuring, Marlene Pauley, Elizabeth Buck, and Jason Hardink and as a concerto soloist with the BYU Philharmonic, North Dakota State Symphonic Band, Idaho Falls Symphony, BYU–Idaho Symphonic Band, the University of the Philippines Concert Band (with FOUR), and others. Dr. Watkins has lectured at conferences world wide including the 12th, 14th, and 15th World Saxophone Congress’ and published in periodicals such as The Saxophone Symposium and JAZZed Magazine. He is currently completing his book Saxophone Tone: A View from the Inside, which culminates over 15 years research.

A few reviews for his CDs and composition: "... A delightful variety of timbres, groupings and styles...perfectly executing intense, no-nonsense jazz charts…employing clever, inventive arrangements." (Jazz Times) “Strong writing and solos, coupled with rhythmically solid ensemble playing and lots of energy to spare.” (Saxophone Journal) “…Effective…interesting…enjoyable…” (Cadence Magazine) “Soprano saxophonist, composer, and arranger Mark Watkins creates frameworks that excite, indulge, and challenge the musicians and listeners alike.  Exploring a wide scope of articulations, rhythms, and melodic and harmonic structures, Watkins establishes and develops a driving contrapuntal conversation between and within the quartet and jazz ensemble throughout With Friends Like These.” (Ed Calle, Miami Saxophone Quartet) “…You never know what's coming next and, like Beethoven, it's always the perfect thing that follows.” (Noah Peterson, KPSU Radio, Portland) Dr. Watkins’ has over 100 compositions and arrangements, 38 are available from Walrus Music, Roncorp, and Dorn.

RAY SMITH (alto)

 

Ray Smith is one of those relatively rare individuals who is an excellent performer and an excellent teacher at the same time. Currently, he teaches at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah as the Director of Jazz Studies and Professor of Saxophone. His jazz big band, Synthesis, has received national and international recognition by winning many jazz festival competitions such as the Pacific Coast Collegiate Jazz Festival, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, and those sponsored by the International Association for Jazz Education; performing in some of the great international jazz festivals such as the Montreux (Switzerland), North Sea ( Holland), Antibes (French Riviera), Riga (Latvia), Pori (Finland), Kongsberg (Norway), Umbria (Perugia, Italy), Edinburgh (Scotland), Copenhagen (Denmark), Wigan and Birmingham (England), San Sebastian (Spain), and Loule (Portugal), to name a few; and has toured Japan and China, not to mention blazing new trails into Siberia in 1998. Ray has also performed at the World Saxophone Congress in Bangkok, Thailand and has done a residency at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.
 
As a student of Eugene Rousseau, Smith has been an avid champion of the classical saxophone, but he is equally at home in either classical or jazz-related styles and is adept at all five of the woodwind instruments: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone. He also performs and records frequently on the Yamaha WX7 Midi Electronic Wind Instrument and the AKAI E.W.I. and often plays recorders, pennywhistles, and other ethnic flutes in the recording studio. He has nearly 200 CD credits and has recorded on many film scores and television themes and jingles such as The Sandlot, Mi Familia, The Swan Princess, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Ricky Lake Show, Buick, Chevy, etc., and many Canadian and German television and radio themes. His classical saxophone CD, Tableaux de Provence, has received much critical acclaim as have the Q’d Up CD’s: Q’d Up, SQ’d Horizons, Q’d Up 3, and Quintessence.Dr. Smith performs periodically with the Utah Symphony and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and is a regular with the Utah Saxophone Quartet and Q’d Up, a jazz quintet, as well as the saxophone quartet, FOUR.
 
Smith also does clinics and performances at colleges and high schools and adjudicates at jazz festivals. In the summers, he teaches at various jazz workshops including the Birch Creek Jazz Camp in Wisconsin where he received the Woody Herman Award for musical excellence and professionalism. In 1998, he was given the Voice of Jazz Award for the State of Utah; and in 2008, he was recognized by the International Association for Jazz Education as the first Utah Jazz Master, a lifetime achievement award “for profound contributions and virtuoso performance in the field of jazz in Utah.”  He has also served on both the Utah Arts Council and the Orem Arts Council.

Dr. Smith holds a B.M. degree in music education from Brigham Young University (1975), M.M. in woodwinds performance from Indiana University (1976), and D.M. in woodwinds performance from Indiana University (1982).

 

SANDON MAYHEW (tenor)

 

Mr. Mayhew began his prestigious performance career while still in high school accumulating a “gigged with” list that’s a veritable who’s who in jazz and commercial music. On the pop side, Sandon has assisted Ray Charles, The Temptations, Kenny Rogers, Chubby Checker, and many others. One would be hard pressed to match his jazz roster: Arturo Sandoval, Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, Bob Mintzer, Ernie Watts, Richie Cole, Eric Marienthal, Lew Tabackin, Chris Vadala, Pete Christlieb, Bill Watrous, Carl Fontana, Gene Harris, The Manhatten Transfer, New York Voices, Ernie Andrews, Dianne Schuur, Jeff Hamilton, Louie Bellson, Billy Cobham, Dave Weckl, Toshiko Akyoshi, Lew Matthews, etc., etc. He studied saxophone performance with a jazz emphasis at Boise State University and studied for many years with the legendary Bill Rankin.

He currently leads a ‘rehearsal’ big band that meets weekly, and freelances 10-20 dates every month. His working jazz group, The New Trio Plus has been together for 16 years and is frequently commissioned to do special projects–the most recent being a jazz quintet interpretation of Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale, which premiered in 2008.

Artists of Sandon’s caliber are much in demand, as is evidenced by his work as a featured soloist/horn arranger on over 50 albums including: The New Trio New Territory (2001, with Chuck Smith, Rod Wray, and Duncan Moore), The Chicken Cordon Blues (1991), and The Hi-Tops (1987). He has worked the recording scenes in Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, San Diego, Portland, and many other locations. “Mayhew’s solo [work] is vibrant and up front…,” states John Larson of the TacomaWeekly in regards to Sandon’s work on Lonnie Mardis’ CD, About the Day (2010). Scot Derrer’s 3 Syllables review of Elisabeth Blis’ recording Lifetime Too, Soul to Soul comments, “With a little help from the amazing Sandon Mayhew's tenor sax, ‘Dust’ really sets the mood for the rest of the album and stands as one of the best tracks.” And, “If you can see Chuck Smith and Sandon Mayhew, you've got it made!” (All About Jazz).

Passing on opportunities to relocate to areas with more jazz activity and awareness, Sandon made the decision early in his career to stay in Boise to promote and support the presence of jazz in the local culture (and stay close to Idaho’s mountains and forests). The Boise Jazz Society Advisory Board enlists Mr. Mayhew’s services as a member helping to facilitate guest artists, local concerts, events and programs to support the jazz arts and musicians. Events such as the Gene Harris, Park City, and Tacoma Jazz Festivals have solicited Sandon’s help as an adjudicator, clinician, and performer. Sandon Mayhew is oft called upon to provide his published opinion and review of other artists, such is the respect he garners from his peers. He is an endorsed clinician for Selmer Saxophones and has been Director of Instrumental Jazz and Applied Saxophone at the College of Idaho since 1993 and is a past adjunct director of the Boise State University Jazz Ensemble and Saxophone studio.

JON GUDMUNDSON (baritone)


Jon Gudmundson, Director of Jazz Studies and Associate Professor of Saxophone at Utah State University, has also taught at Brevard College, the University of Northern Colorado and Indiana University. Dr. Gudmundson has performed with the Harry James Band, Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, Bobby Watson, Chuck Carter, Jerry Weldon, Donald Harrison, David Young, Aaron Neville, Roberta Flack, Connie Haines, and many others.  

Jon has served as clinician, adjudicator, featured soloist, and lecturer at conferences and festivals across North America, including International Association for Jazz Education Conferences, World Saxophone Congresses, and the UNC/Greeley, Indiana State University, Bloomington (Indiana), Montrose, University of Minnesota, JazzBrevard, Holyoke (Massachusetts), Maine State, South Carolina All State, Florida Space Coast, Utah All State, Crescent, Peaks, Gene Harris, Jazz in the Canyon, JazzBrevard, BYU, and BYU–Idaho Jazz Festivals, among many others. Jon has performed in most of the fifty states in the U.S., and several countries on four continents. His favorite projects currently are the saxophone quartet FOUR, and a new project he is currently undertaking, studying the great jazz baritone saxophonists. Dr. Gudmundson has written a dissertation on Gerry Mulligan (The Gerry Mulligan Quartet of 1952-53: A Study of the Arranging Style Through Selected Transcriptions, University of Northern Colorado, 1999.) and a study of Harry Carney (Harry Carney: The Development of His Solo Style, 1927-1974, Research Proceedings of the IAJE, 1996), but the new project will take a much broader view, touching upon many of the great baritone saxophonists in jazz, from Harry Carney to Gary Smulyan and beyond. “As a devoted bari player, I must say I wish there had been a resource with basic information about all of the major jazz baritonists to refer to when I was coming up,” says Gudmundson. “I finally decided that since nobody was writing one, I ought to do it.” The Great Jazz Baritones project is slated for release in mid to late 2012, and will be available in all the usual book and jazz resource outlets.

Dr. Gudmundson received his D.A. in Saxophone Performance/Pedagogy from the University of Northern Colorado, M.M. in Jazz Studies from Indiana University, B.M. in Jazz Studies and Saxophone Performance from Western Washington University, and A.F.A. in Music and C.F.A. in Jazz Studies from North Seattle Community College. His principal saxophone teachers include William Wicker, Julia Nolan, and Roger Greenberg. For jazz, Jon studied with Don Lanphere, Chuck Israels, David Baker, Jerry Coker and Gene Aitken. As a student, Gudmundson garnered three Downbeat Awards, including two for Outstanding Jazz Instrumental Performance. He has written liner notes for CDs by Ronnie Cuber and Bob Brookmeyer on Koch International, been published in The Saxophone Symposium, Teaching Music, and Research Proceedings of the IAJE, and appeared on numerous recordings, including With Friends Like These and On a Warm Summer’s Evenin’ (FOUR), Way Way East Bay (eponymous), Great Moments from the Salt Lake International Jazz Festival (Cold Blood), and Superelastic (Velo Deluxe). Jon is originally from Bellingham, Washington, USA, and currently resides in Logan, Utah, USA.

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