Saxtivity – No Deal
(CD from FrankGriffith.co.uk . Album review by Duncan Lamont Jnr.)
That man of many musical hats – composer, arranger, educator, clarinettist/saxophonist – Frank Griffith, is synonymous with quality music. His most recent project, the saxophone quartet Saxtivity, is ample proof of that.
Teaming up with three outstanding saxophonists- John Padfield on soprano and alto, Rick Halliwell on tenor and Phil Shotton on baritone- Frank completes the lineup on alto in their debut recording, “No Deal”.
Kicking off with the old standard “Flamingo”, Frank’s ingenious arrangement provides a great calling card for the group. Excellent blend, great intonation and a lovely sense of interplay between the four musicians are all on show in this stylish opener.
Next up is the three movement “Jazz Suite For Saxophone Quartet”, composed by that fine British writer, Dick Walter. All four players lock in and deliver a focused, highly accomplished interpretation of this demanding composition.
The tongue-twisting coinage “Saxtitivication” is the title of this Frank Griffith original, and was for a while the album’s provisional title. This is groove time all the way and the quartet really deliver the goods. Who needs a rhythm section?
“Quark” was written by Mike Mower for his fondly remembered sax quartet, Itchy Fingers. The haunting quality of the piece is beautifully captured by the sensitivity of all four players.
“The Sampler” is another Griffith original and brings the quartet into blues-based territory. The collective command of the idiom makes for a joyous ride.
Baritone player John Warren’s composition “Tribal 2-Step” brings us a township- influenced romp. It also provides ample blowing space to all the quartet members and they step up to the plate admirably.
“No Deal” is a Frank Griffith swinger that once again shows his mastery of writing for the saxophone. As before, all four players shine in their solo spots on this one.
“Wapango” is a composition from saxophonist/clarinettist, Paquito D’Rivera. The piece shows his Cuban roots with a hypnotic 6/8 feel. The quartet provide a joyous excursion into Latin territory.
A left-field choice next that put a smile on my face- Frank Griffith’s arrangement of “Music To Watch Girls Go By”. Originally written as an advertising jingle by the great orchestrator, Sid Ramin, this later became a huge hit when Andy Williams recorded it. The quartet’s good-natured performance really adds to the proceedings.
Things come full circle when Saxtivity end as they began with another hit tune from the 1940s, “Yesterday’s Gardenias”. The outstanding arrangement in this instance is from Stan Kenton alumnus, Lennie Niehaus. Lyricism is the order of the day here and Saxtivity provide just that with this lovely closing performance.
Saxtivity have hit the ground running with this debut recording and hopefully we won’t be waiting too long before hearing more from this exciting sax quartet.
Categories: Album review