The breadth of musical textures and colors capable of being produced by a piano and saxophone pairing is larger than expected. Turning expectations upside-down, METROPOLIS, the debut release on Ravello Records by the Harrington/Loewen Duo, comprised of saxophonist Allen Harrington and pianist Laura Loewen, highlights the adventurous and unpredictable approach to the two instruments.
The Harrington/Loewen Duo builds sonic landscapes and structures from their dynamic and often frantic interplay in The Skin of Night while interpreting and responding to conventional and graphic notation including colors, images, and glyphs throughout the score of Metropolis. In pieces like Oran, they focus on the elements of intensity, duration, and timbre, creating expressionistic gestures and stark contrasts in mood. Harrington and Loewen showcase their sophisticated skills by way of extended techniques of the piano such as scraping the strings, pizzicato, harmonics, and glissando; and of the saxophone such as flutter-tongue, multiphonics, and bisbigliando (trilling between two timbres).
Allen Harrington and Laura Loewen established the highly acclaimed Harrington/Loewen Duo in 2002 and have since been known for their "musicality, tight ensemble, and virtuosic performances." The Winnipeg Free Press hailed their performances as "A living, breathing thing, blossoming in the hands of these exceptionally capable musicians." Together, they have received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Manitoba Arts Council. Both Harrington and Loewen are professors at the University of Manitoba's Desautels Faculty of Music in Winnipeg, Canada.
It's easy to wax exultant about Robert Carl's Roundabout—and not simply because Carl's work represents an all-too-rare confluence of Modernist rigor with Postmodernist vigor. Nor is it because (once again norm-defyingly) he excels at incorporating vernaculars ranging from flamenco to jazz without putting so much as a single note anywhere in the general vicinity of cliché's way. It's not even because, as writer and composer Kyle Gann first observed, Roundabout abounds with life—human and non. Musical brujo that he is, Carl conjures the spirits of everything from whales (or are they planets?) to the bacteria who promulgated Lorca's decay and the sound of midday traffic. After he has oriented these spirits, and only after, he forces them, molecule by molecule to manifest sonically through the surfaces of various and sundry percussion instruments, the voices of tenors, reciters and sopranos, the bells of saxophones, of contrabasses—even, as on the incomparable "Lesgedowdaheah," an entire eleven-piece funk band.
In fact, what makes Roundabout such a pleasure pump is all of the above, combined with Carl's talent for harnessing the energies of his own unique spirit. Carl's command of formal approaches, combined with his love of musical vernaculars and understanding of sound—as well as silence, which he deploys like an orchestra unto itself—enable him to break whatever rule he pleases with elegance, grace, and, above all, the ability to amaze. Consider the aforementioned "Lesgedowdaheah." Initially, Carl leads us to believe that he's putting some sort of atonal hoodoo on the funk band. In fact, he is, but in a manner that's positively Dionysian, if not downright orgiastic. In the end, he creates a new world, systematically turning our expectations—all of them—upside-down in the process. That, friends, is reason enough for exultation in itself. Robert Carl teaches at the Hartt School, Connecticut
Fanatical execution and heightened expressionism mark this smorgasbord of contemporary saxophone works from the US and Europe. Minnesota sax virtuoso Richard Dirlam along with sax star Mark Engebretson and pianist Laura Loewen bring together a range of lyrical, dionysian, and flavorful chamber music suitable for both the recital salon and the soul bar. Four bari saxes meet in Engebretson’s The Bear, while the title track, She Sings, She Screams, pits alto sax against electronic tape. New versions of seldom heard chamber classics are given breath-taking interpretations in this high quality recording.
Sax aficionados and adventurous listeners alike will appreciate this sweeping collection of 20th Century classics (including Denisov, Charpentier and Constant) and welcome new additions to the repertory, all under expert fingers.