Nowadays it seems that jazz ensemble saxophone playing is thought of as part of either the marching brass band tradition or the avant-garde. Listening to the Miami Saxophone Quartet reminds me of a truncated version of Supersax. Although the latter group was a five sax unit augmented by trumpet and rhythm that specialized in performing the harmonic solos of Charlie Parker, MSQ utilizes the same principles for jazz, pop and original tunes.
This organization is comprised of four of the best sax men in South Florida. Ed Calle is a heavily recorded sideman with several sessions under his own name and was originally associated with the Miami Sound Machine (the Gloria Estefan band). Mike Brignola comes from the Woody Herman organization in the 1980s and is presumedly related to the late Nick Brignola. Gary Keller is a long term music educator with a well-received album of his own on Double Time with John Fedchock and Kenny Werner. Gary Lindsay has worked with the South Florida Latin music scene and singer Bobby Caldwell, and arranged for Christina Aguilera.
Although I would have preferred to hear more rhythm instruments throughout the album, MSQ has elected to utilize Latin percussion, piano, bass and drums at strategic moments. On "Mambo Influenciado," a tune that Chucho Valdes, Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D'Rivera recorded together, a Latin montuno is introduced after the reading of the melody, very effectively featuring Richard Bravo on bongos and conga. On "A Child Is Born," Richard Strange's piano introduces the Thad Jones jazz standard which is then followed by Brignola's bass clarinet and ends with a clarinet choir as arranged by Lindsay.
The liner notes liken MSQ's version of the Paul Simon song "Still Crazy After All These Years" as if were an R&B vocal ballad and, indeed, Ed Calle's alto sax does that job. Pat Metheny's "Sunlight," written about Rio de Janeiro, displays Keller and then Calle on very bluesy alto sax. The longest composition, "Scenes From the 'Hood," a lengthy Lindsay original, was influenced by Leonard Bernstein's music for West Side Story and uses Bergeron's bass and Hardman's drums as musical bookends to anchor shifting textures and moods.
It's not too wild a guess that reedmen will be most intrigued with this album. It is fascinating to follow the four lead instruments in their serpentine travels through the respective melody lines—and the live audience evidently agreed.