Radam Schwartz – Saxophone Quartet (ENG review)

Arabesque Recordings – Street Date May 1st 2024
Jazz moderne
Radam Schwartz – Saxophone Quartet

Here’s an album that’s certainly difficult to listen to if you’re not a saxophonist, but is a little wonder of its kind. Indeed, having only saxophones to listen to can be quite challenging, even with other contributors on track 2 with guitarist Misha Joseph, track 4 with the voice of Carrie Jackson, and percussionist Andrew Atkinson on percussion.

It’s important to understand that this is a fine exercise in composition, and in that regard, the feat is perfectly achieved. Writing exclusively for saxophones is no easy task. If your ear can focus on the dialogues between the saxophones, you’ll find it amusing. However, from my point of view, such compositions are mainly musical scores for music students to work on the melodies and harmonies offered by the composer.

One understands Schwarz’s compositions better by delving into his biography. A trained organist and pianist, he’s authored numerous albums and collaborated in various forms with many personalities, including: Jonny Fortune, Rodney Jones, Ed Cherry, Bruce Williams, Bill Saxton, Frank Lacy, Don Braden, Gene Ghee, Jeff Hackworth, Clifford Adams, Jay Hogard, Irwin Hall, Julian Lee, James Stewart, Brad Leali, Jerome Jennings, Carrie Jackson, Madame Pat Tandy, Ty Stephens.

Radam hosted a Jam Session from 1986 to 2016, starting at the famous Peppermint Lounge in Orange, New Jersey. In 1997, when the Mint closed its doors, he moved to the Crossroads in Garwood, where he played every Tuesday for 19 years, making it the longest session in New Jersey history. Over the years, famous musicians such as Etta Jones, Rhoda Scott, Jimmy McGriff, Roy Ayers, Woody Shaw, Bobby Watson, and George Benson have all enjoyed playing at the Jam Sessions. He regularly performs at Showmans in Harlem, NY (one of the few remaining organ clubs).

All compositions, if you listen closely, are ideas from an organist, translated to other instruments. It’s a complex conversion, but it’s difficult to make saxophones sound like an organ, a powerful instrument with access to deep bass. And therein lies the limitation of this recording, which is quite tiring to listen to in one go. It’s the kind of experience much more interesting to live through in a live setting than on a recording, even though all the artists on this album are fantastic. That’s why we’ll only give this album 3 stars; it suffers from a lack of accompanying instruments to make it digestible, especially since the compositions presented here require a minimally erudite audience, musically speaking.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, May 1st 2024

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