PRISM Quartet

Dedication

DEDICATION features music composed in celebration of the PRISM Quartet’s 20th anniversary by a slew of today’s top composers. The composers come from near (Philly-based Matthew Levy, founding member of PRISM) and far (Donnacha Dennehy, a central figure on the Irish new music scene). They range from some of our most highly visible, award-winning figures (William Bolcom, Chen Yi, Jennifer Higdon, Libby Larsen) to emerging voices (Roshanne Etezady and Dennis DeSantis were both beginning their careers in 2004). And of course, there are friends of the ensemble like sax player Greg Osby, who adds his alto to the mix, and one-time PRISM member Tim Ries. From the frantic, florid playing required by Gregory Wanamaker’s “speed metal organum blues” to the melancholy of Renée Favand-See’s “isolation,” this set of birthday dedications offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of one of the essential contemporary music groups of our time.
John Schaefer, WNYC

Guest Artists:
Guest appearance by Greg Osby, alto saxophone

Record Label / Catalogue Number:
Innova/800

Release Date:
May 31, 2011

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DEDICATION features music composed in celebration of the PRISM Quartet’s 20th anniversary by a slew of today’s top composers with a knack for the sax. PRISM has expanded the world of the sax quartet through their commissions and performances since 1984. Their dedication has paid off with this virtuosic showcase of instrumental acrobatics.

PRISM musicians have wielded their instruments in a variety of styles and contexts, and they’ve done it with a gleeful disregard for the various “-isms” of the day. The saxophone is a versatile family of instruments, capable of great subtlety and emotion, but also perfectly good at producing a wailing wall of noise. And while PRISM has done yeoman work in reminding people that old Adolphe Sax intended his inventions to be classical instruments first, the quartet also has the good taste and the tasty chops needed to reflect the sax’s great tradition in jazz and popular music.

This collection brings together almost two-dozen works written or arranged to mark PRISM’s anniversary, back in 2004. The composers come from near (Philly-based Matthew Levy, founding member of PRISM) and far (Donnacha Dennehy, a central figure on the Irish new music scene). They range from some of our most highly visible, award-winning figures (William Bolcom, Chen Yi, Jennifer Higdon, Libby Larsen) to emerging voices (Roshanne Etezady and Dennis DeSantis were both beginning their careers in 2004). And of course, there are friends of the ensemble like sax player Greg Osby, who adds his alto to the mix, and one-time PRISM member Tim Ries, who left the quartet some years ago to go on tour with a rock band. (Only time will tell if that band, apparently called “The Rolling Stones,” will have the staying power of the PRISM Quartet.)

From the frantic, florid playing required by Gregory Wanamaker’s “speed metal organum blues” to the melancholy of Renée Favand-See’s “isolation,” this set of birthday dedications offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of one of the essential contemporary music groups of our time.

Reviews

  • ""[T]he PRISM Quartet plays with remarkable tightness … They not only handle the demands of the modern works with ease, but also exhibit a keen flexibility, making more traditional compositions … sound equally as convincing." "

    - Brian Sacawa, New Music Box

  • ""The all-saxophone Prism Quartet recently celebrated its 20th anniversary as a group. Dedication (Innova 800) notes fittingly the passing milestone with the quartet performing 31 short compositions penned especially for the occasion. Most pieces are a little over a minute in duration, though some are longer. Time passes quickly and rewardingly when listening. Jazz adept Greg Osby joins the group for some effective solo work on alto for his piece "Prism #1 (Refraction)," presented in two interesting takes. In addition there are short pieces by Ken Ueno, William Bolcolm, Jennifer Higdon, Tim Berne, and a host of others. As might be expected, some directly channel the sounds and influences of modern jazz, others take on various characteristics as the particular composer deems fit. All are contemporary, seem specially suited for the quartet, and sparkle like small but brilliant stones in a modern cabinet of curiosities. Dedication showcases ideally the excellence of the Prism Quartet with their exceptional tonal blend and precise agility. A most fitting way to kick off the next 20 years!" "

    - GAPPLEGATE CLASSICAL MODERN MUSIC REVIEW, January 10, 2012

  • ""En 2004, le quatuor de saxophones américain PRISM Quartet célébrait son 20e anniversaire avec un programme complet de courtes commandes à une vaste gamme de compositeurs américains. Trois ans plus tard, les saxophonistes enregistraient ce programme en studio. Et ce n’est qu’en 2011 que le tout paraît sur disque, sous la forme de Dedication. Cet album s’écoute merveilleusement bien, malgré (ou plutôt grâce à) la diversit qu’il propose. Parmi les compositeurs sollicités, on trouve Tim Berne et Nick Didkovsky, mais aussi Zack Browning, Jason Eckardt, Greg Osby et un membre du quatuor: Matthew Levy. Qu’elles soient complexes, lyriques, voire minimalistes, les vignettes reçoivent" TRANSLATION: "In 2004, US sax quartet PRISM Quartet celebrated its 20th anniversary with a complete program of short commissions to a wide range of US composers. They recorded that program in the studio three years laters, and now finally the results are out on CD as Dedication. This album goes down marvelously well, despite (or is it thanks to) its diversity. Among the composers that were solicited are Tim Berne and Nick Didkovsky, but also Zack Browning, Jason Eckardt, Greg Osby, and PRISM’s own Matthew Levy. Be them complex, lyrical or even minimalistic, each vignette gets the royal treatment from the quartet. Bravo.""

    - Charlie Morrow, Monsieur Delire Blog, July 20, 2011

  • ""With one exception, Matthew Levy's set of Three Miniatures (which marks a kind of interlude), all of the short pieces on this album were commissioned by the PRISM saxophone quartet in commemoration of its 20th anniversary in 2004. As such, the album marks a little survey in miniature of the state of concert music at that time, at least setting aside the spheres of electronic music and of tonal neo-Romantic crowd-pleasers. You could buy it with that in mind rather than out of sheer admiration for this crack ensemble, who have done for saxophones what the Kronos Quartet did for strings. Yet the range of music only goes to show how versatile the group is, and in the end the album is a virtuoso display. Consider the controlled violence in a work like Gregory Wanamaker's speed metal organum blues (which sounds just about like you might expect from the title), the peppy cross rhythms of Jennifer Higdon's Bop, the humor of Frank J. Oteri's four-movement Fair and Balanced?, and the lyricism of Adam B. Silverman's Just a Minute, Chopin, for starters: all of these little works receive committed, precise performances, and there really are few dull moments on the entire 26-item program. Fans of funk-jazz saxophonist Greg Osby may be interested purely because of the alternate versions of his Prism #1 (Refraction), on which he joins the PRISM quartet. Highly recommended.""

    - James Manheim, All Music April 9, 2012.

  • ""I don’t think there are enough words to describe the technical precision, the unity of sonic intent, the musicality, and the timbral facility present in the Prism Quartet’s playing. Fortunately for me, I don’t really need the words; I have this disc instead. These 23 compositions, all short and wonderfully focused, paint a wonderful aural picture of this amazing sax quartet. The slithering of Roshanne Etezady’s Inkling showcases the extreme fluidity of their sound and as soon as it is over – BAM – we are hit with the spiky and strident Howler Black by Zack Browning. Adam B. Silverman’s Just a Minute, Chopin is as tender and expressive as Gregory Wanamaker’s speed metal organum blues is not, yet Prism sounds like they were born to play both. Compositions using lots of extended techniques like Ken Ueno’s July 23… (the full title takes longer to read than it takes to listen to the piece) and Jason Eckardt’s A Fractured Silence are gorgeous and rich sounding. The composers’ voices are strong and resonant and Prism plays these works as if no effort was involved (the effort for these pieces is considerable). Frank Oteri’s Fair and Balanced? exploits Prism’s pitch and tuning control with his four microtonal movements. By the time the disc is over, you’ll think there is nothing the Prism Quartet can’t do. And you’d be right.""

    - Jay Batzner, Sequenza 21 Oct 3, 201.