Without a rhythm section, the Osland Saxophone Quartet has to rely on its baritone saxophonist for a pulse, as the others contribute to the harmony and melody. Executed properly, the soprano saxophone can sound delicate like a flute, articulate and firm like a clarinet, or swinging in the jazz idiom. Miles Osland does all three as he leads his quartet through arrangements that allow for individual expression within a framework that emphasizes their cohesiveness and their expert individual musicianship.
The program for this session ranges from the 1879 composition "Quartette" in two movements by American composer Caryl Florio, to the 1956 "Quatour pour Saxophones" in four movements by French composer Pierre Max Dubois, and the 1997 title track by English composer Mike Mower. Phil Woods wrote "Deer Head Sketches" for saxophone quartet, while the Ellington material was originally written for orchestra. The session ends with a medley of patriotic tunes that includes "Shenandoah," "Oh Susannah," and "Little Brown Jug."
The University Of Kentucky is near & dear to the heart of this ensemble, since alto saxophonist Anderson and baritone saxophonist Nelson are alumni, while Miles Osland is Director of Jazz Studies and Lisa Parent Osland is Director of Saxophone Ensembles at the school. Each member of the quartet swings alone and in concert throughout the session. They can be heard individually on "When Saxophones Collide," as baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano enter in order. When the baritone saxophonist takes the lead in "Kentucky Roastup," the others provide a rhythmic pulse by tapping the keys and pads of their instruments at the microphone. Dubois’ composition, while offering Twentieth Century ideas that resemble "An American In Paris" and "The Can Can," provides an opportunity to appreciate the versatility of a saxophone. The quartet – through its adherence to the composer’s principles – evokes scenes that resemble the English horn, oboe, clarinet, flute, and bassoon.
The three Billy Strayhorn classics offer familiar sounds with an emphasis on melody. "Chelsea Bridge" was originally written for Johnny Hodges. Here, the melody is passed from soprano to alto to tenor to baritone sax. Similarly, on "Lush Life," the quartet shares an appreciation of the ballad while providing counterpoint and supportive harmony. "Take the ‘A’ Train" is from an auditorium performance before a live audience, and the area microphones fuse all nine artists into one picture with an authentic big band sound. Miles Osland turns up the heat for his soprano saxophone improvisation, and the effect is to spur the combined ensemble even further.
Musically, the Osland Saxophone Quartet exhibits excellent results. Not only does every note arrive in tune, and every phrase extend to its full length, but the music swings too. It’s chamber jazz at its best, and recommended.
Track Listing: Ulla in Africa; Kentucky Roastup; Quartette (Andante); Quartette (Allegro); Deer Head Sketches (The Kitchen); Deer Head Sketches (The Front Porch); Deer Head Sketches (The Bandstand); Diversions; Quatour pour Saxophones (Ouverture); Quatour pour Saxophones (Doloroso); Quatour pour Saxophones (Spirituoso); Quatour pour Saxophones (Andante); Chelsea Bridge; Lush Life; Take the
Personnel: The Osland Saxophone Quartet: Miles Osland- soprano saxophone; Lisa Parent Osland- tenor saxophone; Jonathan Anderson- alto saxophone; Larry Nelson- baritone saxophone; The UK Mega-Sax Quartet guests on "Take the