PRISM Quartet presented the third and final installment of its Heritage/Evolution series at Symphony Space Leonard Nimoy Thalia (Jun. 12th), this one featuring the compositions and performances of saxophonists David Liebman (soprano) and Greg Osby (alto). Setting the mood for a two-part evening, the quartet opened alone with four movements from Jennifer Higdon’s Short Stories. The sheer beauty of the saxophones’ collective sound, sweet and virtually without vibrato, is incredible, demonstrating an aesthetic in many ways closer to that of a classical string quartet than that of a jazz sax section.
After navigating the complex harmonies, counterpoint and hypnotic chorales of Higdon’s opus, Liebman and Osby came onstage for director/tenor saxophonist Matthew Levy’s “Serial Mood: Reflection”, Liebman loosing breathy flurries over lush chords, Osby later dueting with baritone saxophonist Taimur Sullivan in a Phrygian mode. The first set concluded with the world premiere of Osby’s “Covenant of Voices”, written for PRISM and inspired by the Bulgarian Women’s Choir. Demonstrating admirable control over his dynamic range, Osby began with a low-pitched motif, soon joined by soprano saxophonist Timothy McAllister— whose beautiful high register rivaled that of a coloratura vocalist—leading the quartet through a gorgeous chorale, which also showcased alto saxophonist Zachary Shemon’s dulcet tone and Liebman’s ever boisterous soprano. (Tom Greenland)