Heritage/Evolution, Volume 3

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PRISM Quartet
Timothy McAllister, soprano
Zachary Shemon, alto
Matthew Levy, tenor
Taimur Sullivan, baritone
Melissa Aldana, tenor saxophone
Tim Ries, tenor and soprano saxophones, flute
Terell Stafford, trumpet
Miguel Zenón, alto saxophone

Track Listing:
1. Send in the Clowns by Stephen Sondheim, Arr. Matthew Levy (single) (5:37)
PRISM Quartet with Miguel Zenón

2. Found by Matthew Levy (16:34)
PRISM Quartet with Tim Ries and Miguel Zenón

3. Favor by Terell Stafford, Arr. Jack Saint Clair (6:36)
PRISM Quartet with Terell Stafford and Melissa Aldana

Reflections by Melissa Aldana
4. Resumen de Otoño by Julio Cortazar (1:14)
5. El Atardecer by Pablo Neruda (3:32)
6. Una Carta de Amor by Julio Cortazar (3:28)
7. Con La Primavera by Jose Martí (4:16)
8. Un Breve Amor by Julio Cortazar (4:07)
PRISM Quartet with Melissa Aldana

Album Trailer

Single Trailer

Press Release:
Read the press release.

Press/Media Inquiries:
Aleba Gartner, Aleba & Co.

Executive Producer; Editing/Mixing/Mastering: Matthew Levy
Produced by PRISM Quartet (Timothy McAllister, Zachary Shemon, Matthew Levy, Taimur Sullivan), Melissa Aldana, Terell Stafford
Recorded at Elm Street Studios, Conshohocken, PA
Lead Session Engineer: John O. Senior
Assistant Engineers: Nancy Kimmons, Brendan McGeehan
The Bunker, Brooklyn, NY; Session Engineer: Aaron Nevezie
Turtle Studios, Philadelphia, PA; Session Engineer: Doug Raus
Artwork/Design: Jon Rohrer, OfficeOfDevelopment.com


Record Label / Catalogue Number:
XAS 121

Release Date:
March 22, 2024

One Sheet

Heritage/Evolution, Vol. 3, Notes by John Schaefer

PRISM Quartet’s Heritage/Evolution series focuses on the dual lineage of the saxophone: invented as an instrument for composed, Western classical music but with a long history in improvised and popular music in the United States, and now, around the world. This third volume, though, offers works that grow out of a more personal reckoning with the idea of heritage. Chilean sax player and composer Melissa Aldana, for example, found herself drawn to the tradition of Latin American poetry in “Reflections”; trumpeter Terell Stafford’s “Favor” pays tribute to an influential predecessor; and two works by PRISM co-founder Matthew Levy draw on his own individual history.

This volume begins with Levy’s take on Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” a song he first recalls playing in his high school band. This version features both PRISM and the redoubtable sax player/composer Miguel Zenón. At first, it seems like a fairly straightforward arrangement of Sondheim’s familiar tune, although Levy adds a subtle but definite chromatic twist. That suited both the song’s (often overlooked) bitter mood, and the songwriter’s own taste. Sondheim, though he died before he could hear the final version, heard an earlier recording of the arrangement and wrote to Levy, “I love the dissonances you’ve trickled into the harmonies. I wouldn’t mind a couple more.” (Levy apparently didn’t need to be asked twice.) But eventually, this version of “Send In The Clowns” reveals itself to be a kind of miniature concerto as well, with Zenón soloing over Sondheim’s plaintive melody; Levy even offers him a cadenza before bringing the quartet back in a cascade of wistful, almost Ellington-esque harmonies.

“Found,” also by Matthew Levy, is very much a family affair. Composed for PRISM and two of the closest members of their extended musical family, Miguel Zenón (on alto) and Tim Ries (on tenor and flute), the work derives from a melody originally written some years ago for Levy’s wife, Willa. That gentle, almost nocturnal tune now occupies the middle section of “Found,” which is roughly arch-shaped. After an introspective solo opening, a repeated note spawns a kaleidoscope of almost chorale-like harmonies; then Tim Ries’s flute adds a touch of Baroque elegance to the first of the two dance-oriented sections that frame the central “Willa’s Theme.” On the other side, another series of harmonies revolving around a single repeated note leads into the work’s most high-spirited passage, before settling down with another mellow chorale.

If “Found” moves through the world of late-night jazz, “Favor” starts like an early morning reveille. Trumpeter Terell Stafford starts things off with a buzzing solo before the song’s jaunty waltz theme comes in. Stafford first recorded “Favor” with his quintet on his 2015 album Brotherlee Love, a tribute to the great but ill-starred trumpeter Lee Morgan. But here, in Jack Saint Clair’s clever arrangement, you may also hear passing nods to Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis. Saint Clair, with an orchestrator’s sure touch, uses a quintet of saxes – with PRISM joined here by Melissa Aldana. It’s half the length of the original; the sax ensemble proves to be an ideal foil for the solo trumpet; and Stafford himself sounds like he’s having a blast.

Melissa Aldana steps into the spotlight on “Reflections,” her suite of five short musical meditations on favorite Latin American poems. “Reflections” is Aldana’s way of processing the mixed feelings of isolation, nostalgia, concern, and quiet serenity that took hold during lockdown, as well as her heightened awareness of the changing of the seasons. So part one, inspired by “Resumen de Otoño” by Julio Cortazar, is a brief, almost epigrammatic piece with the autumnal mood suggested by the title. Pablo Neruda’s “El Atardecer” (“the sunset”) conjures up sepia-tinged images of dance halls of the past. Next, another Cortazar poem, “Una Carta de Amor” (“a love letter”), inspires a softly glowing ballad, ending with a yearning tenor solo. After the isolation and loneliness of that solo, the full quartet’s lilting interplay on “Con La Primavera” (“with spring”), a poem by Jose Martí, sparkles with sunny optimism. The finale, based on Cortazar’s “Un Breve Amor” (“a brief love”), is a ballad full of nocturnal musing – with the regret for summer’s end tempered by the knowledge that it will return.



This recording was made possible with generous support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. “Reflections” by Melissa Aldana and “Favor” by Terell Stafford, newly arranged by Jack Saint Clair, were commissioned with generous support from the William Penn Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. “Found” was commissioned by DANSR on behalf of Vandoren.