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Album Review

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.

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