The Saxophone Quartet
FOUR

Reviews


World Saxophone Congress, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Venice, Italy

University of the Philippines, Quezon City


Ljubljana, Slovenia


The Art House, Singapore

four sounding like five or more…
buoyant and uplifting,

deep, poignant, organic

and filling in the gaps with

sound and fury, lightness and breath,
combinations changing,
leads out front tumble to second,

third or fourth place -
notes akimbo, stacked wildly

from front to back, top to bottom,
breath rising, swirling, twisting,

dancing, twirling, leaping,
tip-toeing over red hot coals,

throwing caution to the hot wind,
why? because we all can and should!

lend them your ears and
open minds and cast yourself

i
nto this beautiful, bountiful
musical collaboration,

no need to fill in the blanks…
it’s the in-betweens that matter,

and, if you look, you will find me
lurking in the folds,

ears turned out and eyes closed,
thankful the search shows no sign of letting up…

glorious, bright moments bursting
and bouncing with fullness and joy.

when is 2+2 more than the sum of it’s parts?
l
isten, and here you will hear.

four sounding like five or more…

–Jeff coffin
Dave Matthews Band
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones

Jeff Coffin Mutet

________
In a quartet where almost everyone’s name begins with “Doctor”, you might expect the music to be stuffy at best. Academia has developed a reputation- right or wrong – for carefully guarding antiquated traditions, especially when it comes to music. I am a product of the teaching of three members of FOUR (Smith, Watkins, and Gudmundson), and thankfully, this belief does not apply to these titans of the saxophone. While certainly some of the most capable on the classical saxophone canon, the musicians of FOUR are stunningly fluent in the jazz and contemporary idioms. 

Don’t let the simplicity of their chosen moniker fool you. On the outing that matches their name, FOUR again pushes the saxophone quartet into exciting new territory with complex arrangements and technical performance at the highest level.  Although the saxophone and its repertoire is still in its infancy compared to other instruments, these master musicians seem to be a million miles from the first saxophone quartets penned by Jean-Baptiste Singelée in the 19th century.

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 (“There You Go Thinking Again”). In addition to the expected swing and Latin cuts, the players’ formidable bop chops are front and center as they weave “Donna Lee” and “Back Home Again in Indiana” into one marvelous whole that makes one wonder why they haven’t always been played together. On the album’s cover tunes, the ensemble tackles the jump swing sound of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (“Go Daddy-O”) as well as the funk-laden riffs of the Brecker Brothers (“Some Skunk Funk”).

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”!

Caleb Chapman
President, Jazz Education Network
Director of the award winning Crescent Super Band

________
From the downbeat, the screaming-hot, new release from FOUR, "On a Warm Summer's Evening” is fat-city! Too hip for hep-cats, too cool for the fans and readily accessible to anyone who is impressed with virtuoso execution all shown up with ferociously-delicious arrangements.  Lush and interesting in it's soulful melancholy one minute and you're swept away by a "Manteca-ish" groove the next.  Could this be "Supersax" re-inventing themselves after entering the witness protection program?  How did this happen? Then again, who cares?  These cats are dazzling in every way!  From the Mingus-styled moments of collective improvisation interwoven with tightly executed parts; you never know what's coming next and, like Beethoven, it's always the perfect thing that follows. Sometimes it's a ballad and sometimes it's picture perfect, straight-ahead, swinging jazz.

If I have one complaint, it's this - more fast stuff.  I got hooked on the first 3 tunes and was jonesin' for more up-tempo tunes.  I need my Mark Watkins bop-fix!  This is great jazz from start to finish - beautiful, intelligent, soulful, swinging and all done with the highest caliber of performance. Congratulations guys, this is sublime.

Noah Peterson
KPSW Radio
Peterson Entertainment, LLC
Portland, OR

_________
For those of us who enjoy a lifelong love affair with the saxophone, any opportunity to indulge in the warmth, beauty, power, and agility produced by masterful saxophonists is most welcome. Throughout On A Warm Summer’s Evenin’, Mark Watkins, Brent Jensen, Sandon Mayhew, and Jon Gudmundson, seamlessly harness the musical energy of the saxophone in settings ranging from quartet to orchestra with comfort and elegance. On this CD, FOUR engages listeners via effortlessly skillful execution of concrete and improvised musical ideas that produce a diverse, vivid, and enjoyable performance.

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. Featuring the alto of Brent Jensen, Of Things Hoped For showcases the romantic nature of the saxophone as a solo and ensemble instrument in a traditional jazz setting. Illustrating their musical diversity, Watkins’ Felices Para Siempre takes us on a clave-fueled ride while his arrangements of Moment’s Notice, Chim Chim Cheree, and his Sunset in Sperlonga showcase FOUR’s jazz roots.

Beyond their diversity and flawless ensemble work, two of the most appealing dimensions of FOUR’s offering are Watkins’ pen and the virtuosity of each individual. Watkins’ diversified, fresh, and engaging writing results in new discoveries with every listen. As individuals, all FOUR deliver stirring descargas on Felices, Watkins swings and weaves improvised tapestries in his On the Other Hand and on A Warm Summer’s Evenin’, Mayhew burns on Moment’s Notice and Jack the Giant Killer, Jensen charms on Of Things Hoped For and Sunset in Sperlonga, and Gudmundson excites with contagious and bluesy energy on Chim Chim Cheree and Peas in a Pod.

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.   

Dr. Ed Calle (EdD – DHEL)
Two-time Latin Grammy nominee

Miami Saxophone Quartet
Associate Professor Senior of Music Business and Production, Miami Dade College

________
“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)

________

“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)

________
“Bravo!” (Jean-Marie Londeix, Bordeaux Conservatory, France)

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