Heritage/Evolution: Celebrating the Saxophone
Launched in 2014 to celebrate PRISM’s 30th anniversary season, Heritage/Evolution is an ongoing touring and recording project that partners PRISM with master saxophonists who defy convention. Presenters may choose from nine new works composed and performed by jazz luminaries who join PRISM as guest soloists: Melissa Aldana, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Steve Lehman, Tim Ries, Miguel Zenón, Dave Liebman, Greg Osby, Chris Potter, Ravi Coltrane, and Joe Lovano.
Since the saxophone’s invention by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1840, it has captured the imaginations of artists and audiences worldwide. Heritage/Evolution charts fresh musical territory, drawing on the saxophone’s cross-cultural heritage to blend jazz with everything from South Indian and Western classical music to Romani and Latin American folkloric music.
Matthew Levy, Executive Director
PRISM Quartet, Inc.
matt at prismquartet dot com
Rudresh Mahanthappa is one of today’s most innovative jazz composers and performers, fusing jazz and the culture of his Indian ancestry to break new musical ground. Down Beat’s 2012 alto saxophonist of the year, he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the coveted Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. He leads several groups, including Samdhi and the Indo-Pak Coalition, and has collaborated with Bunky Green, Jack DeJohnette, and Kadri Gopalnath.
Described as “one of the transforming figures of early 21st century jazz” by The Guardian (UK) and as “a quietly dazzling saxophonist” by The New York Times, Fulbright scholar Steve Lehman is the first composer to integrate jazz and Spectral music, a form of classical music in which the physics of sound inform compositional decisions. His 2009 recording, Travail, Transformation & Flow was chosen as the #1 Jazz Album of the year by The New York Times.
The Washington Post describes Chilean saxophonist and Blue Note recording artist Melissa Aldana as representing “a new sense of possibility and direction in jazz.” In 2013, at age 24, she became the first female musician and the first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. She is a Blue Note recording artists, and a recipient of the Martin E. Segal Award from Jazz at Lincoln Center and a double recipient of the Altazor Award, Chile’s highly prestigious national arts prize.
Multiple Grammy nominee and Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón is widely considered one of the most influential saxophonists of his generation. He studied classical saxophone in his native Puerto Rico before developing a unique voice as a composer/conceptualist whose work blends Latin American folkloric music and jazz. A founding member of the acclaimed SF JAZZ Collective, he has released six recordings as a leader including the Grammy nominated Alma Adentro (2011).
Hailed by The New York Times as “a singular talent, a player’s player,” Tim Ries is a versatile and thoughtful saxophonist and composer whose collaborators have included Phil Woods, Tom Harrell, Al Foster, John Patitucci, Danilo Perez, Red Garland, Badal Roy, Maria Schneider, Chris Potter, Donald Byrd, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Sheryl Crow. A former member of PRISM (1993–2001), he has released eight recordings as a leader, and currently tours with the Rolling Stones.
Saxophonist, composer, producer, educator, and Pew Fellow Greg Osby has made an indelible mark on contemporary jazz over the past 20 years. Described by The New York Times as “a pacesetter” who composes work that is “intricately coiled,” he has performed with Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, Jack DeJohnette, and Andrew Hill and released 15 solo recordings on Blue Note before founding his own Inner Circle label, a platform for today’s brightest artists.
David Liebman’s career has spanned over four decades, beginning in the 1970s as the saxophonist/flautist of both the Elvin Jones and Miles Davis groups, and continuing as a leader of his own ensembles, including Quest and Saxophone Summit. Down Beat’s 2011 soprano saxophonist of the year , he is an NEA Master of Jazz whose discography of nearly 350 records “defines unpredictability, incorporating his fascination with the worlds of jazz, rock, ethnic and contemporary classical music” (Washington Post).
Chris Potter is a world-class soloist, accomplished composer and formidable bandleader. The youngest musician ever to win Denmark’s Jazzpar Prize, he was named Tenor Saxophonist of the Year 2013 by the Jazz Journalists Association. DownBeat called him “One of the most studied (and copied) saxophonists on the planet.” His compositions draw on a vast range of music, demonstrating what Bill Milkowski called “a penchant for risk-taking and genre-bending.” Potter’s discography includes 15 albums as a leader and sideman appearances on over 100 albums. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for his solo work on “In Vogue,” a track from Joanne Brackeen’s album Pink Elephant Magic, and was prominently featured on Steely Dan’s Grammy-winning album, Two Against Nature. He has performed or recorded with many of the leading names in jazz, such as Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, John Scofield, the Mingus Big Band, Jim Hall, Paul Motian, Dave Douglas, and Ray Brown.
Ravi Coltrane is a critically acclaimed Grammy nominated saxophonist, bandleader, and composer. The son of John and Alice Coltrane, Ravi Coltrane firmly established himself as a forward-thinking jazz musician with a strong musical identity influenced by, but set apart from, his father’s legacy. In the course of a twenty plus year career, Ravi has released six albums as a leader. His latest, Spirit Fiction, was released in June of 2012 for the Blue Note label. It was described by AllAboutJazz.com as a “new level of compositional and improvisational excellence…a complete, seamless musical statement.” Additional credits include performances as well as recordings with Elvin Jones,Terence Blanchard, Kenny Baron, Steve Coleman, McCoy Tyner, Jack DeJohnette, Matt Garrison, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Geri Allen, Joanne Brackeem, and The Blue Note 7. He is a co-leader of the Saxophone Summit with Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman, and founder of the independent record label, RKM.
Joe Lovano is a Grammy-winning saxophonist, composer, and arranger. DOWNBEAT magazine has twice named him Jazz Artist of the Year. He also topped both the DOWNBEAT readers and critics polls as Tenor Player of the Year in 2000. Lovano has collaborated with many legendary musicians, including McCoy Tyner, Hank Jones, Joshua Redman, Bill Frisell, Branford Marsalis, Jim Hall, and Paul Motian. He is the Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance at the Berklee College of Music and a faculty member in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute.
Tom Greenland, The New York City Jazz Record
"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."
""A rich and satisfying feast of saxophone sonics that range from the symphonic to snappy rhythm pieces...from the abstract to the sublime. Four Stars. ""
""gloriously textured...bluesy and kinetic...gorgeously dramatic. You won't get lost in the reeds on this one.""
"“The release continues PRISM’s penchant for fresh, genre-challenging projects and exemplifies the group’s appetite for new directions. Though formally speaking it’s a contemporary classical saxophone quartet, the label’s too limiting for what PRISM Quartet has accomplished.”"
WNYC's New Sounds with John Schaefer
"“Hear the single, Forbidden Drive, something of a nature study, where composed score (PRISM) and improvised parts (Lovano) both wander together along the same path in a valley/park...a magical portrayal of the Wissahickon Creek at night.”"
""Intriguing music that falls somewhere between modern classical and jazz...unique and ambitious. Four Stars.""