CD Review: Fanfares and Passages
May 2003 - The Horn Call
Calvin Smith, The Horn Call XXXIII, no.3 (May 2003): 94-95.
Jeffrey Snedeker, Editor
Fanfares and Passages. Atlantic Brass Quintet, Seth Orgel, horn. Mark Custom Recordings 4247 MCD. Timing 61:25. Recorded in Slee Concert Hall, University of Buffalo, New York.
Contents: Praetorius, arr. Luke Dances from Terpsichore; Liszt, arr. Luke Hungarian Rhapsody No.2; Handel, arr. Luke La Rejouissance; Bach, arr. Nelson Prelude & Fugue in D minor; Wm. Byrd, arr. Luke Earle of Oxforde's March; Wm. Byrd, arr. Luke Ne Irascaris Domine; Bernard Rands Fanfare; Ray Luke Compressions 3; Samuel Headrick Passages; Manuel de Falla Fanfare from Homenajes; trad. Costa Rica, arr. Nelson Caballito Nicoyano; trad. Serbia, arr. Luke/Nelson Zvonce Kolo; Jose Moncayo, arr. Ferrer Huapango
This is a CD that you are going to enjoy very much unless you have some sort of unfortunate predisposition against brass quintets as a chamber music medium. Effective, idiomatic transcriptions and imaginative, exciting original compositions for quintet make this CD a delightful mix of Renaissance, Baroque, Romantic, Contemporary, and Ethnic sounds. The three works that are original compositions for quintet are surrounded by a wide variety of transcriptions that work well for quintet. Bernard Rands, Samuel Headrick, and Ray Luke (the father of Atlantic Brass Quintet trumpeter Jeffrey Luke) have created new works that could easily become standard repertoire pieces. They range in length from about two minutes for Rands' Fanfare through Ray Luke's five-and-a-half minute Compressions, to the slightly over ten-minute, two-movement Passages by Headrick. Each of these works is very well crafted, filled with exciting and expressive music. The transcriptions are also well done and fit into the brass quintet medium with a natural ease that all transcriptions should have, but often lack. The Atlantic Brass Quintet performs with a virtuosic facility that makes what they do seem very easy. Their ensemble is stellar. Their intonation is what any chamber music group should strive to attain. They play with sensitivity and flair. Their dynamic range reaches the extremes. Seth Orgel shows himself off in the most impressive way. He does it all and very well, with full and centered tone and full control in all dynamics. He fills the quintet hornist role beautifully. This is a first rate product: the music, the performance, the recorded quality. There aren't any negatives.
Calvin Smith, The Horn Call XXXIII, no.3 (May 2003): 94-95.
Editor, The Horn Call
Saturday, August 4, 2001 - The Buffalo News
"Pushing the envelope of what a brass quintet is capable ... an irresistibly infectious spirit"
By Jan Jezioro
News Contributing Reviewer
Sometimes it pays to have a good connection. UB faculty member Jon Nelson is a former member of the Atlantic Brass Quintet. Besides getting the members of the quintet to serve in residency at the University of Buffalo last October, he convinced them to take part in this year’s June in Buffalo festival, as part of the powerhouse, ad hoc group Jibrassworks.
Back in town for a two-week interna-tional seminar, the quintet had the opportunity to showcase its individual style Thursday evening, in the first of two con-certs given in conjunction with the seminar.
As a performing ensemble, the brass quintet is still struggling to achieve the kind of widespread recognition enjoyed by more traditional ensembles in the world of classical music. This was re-flected in the composition of Thursday’s audience, which literally contained no more than a handful of the regular patrons of the popular Buffalo Chamber Music Society’s concert series. That’s regrettable, since the Atlantic Brass Quintet offered an entertaining program that demonstrated the highest level of musicianship.
Transcriptions of works for other instruments are still the bread and butter, by necessity, of the brass quintet repertoire.
Jeff Luke’s arrangements ideally suited both music and performers. Han-del’s “La Rejouissance” opened with a well-blended sound that featured the brilliant clarity of Luke and Hiro Noguchi’s trumpet playing.
The ensemble played two dances by Praetorius, effectively capturing the feel of Renaissance dance, with the beginning section of the “Volte” developing an unexpected 19th century American brass band sound.
There are many, perhaps far too many, transcriptions of popular classical music for wind instruments. The Royal Air Force Band’s rendition of Mozart or Ros-sini arrangements may make a music lover wince. So, when one of the selections on a brass program is Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2,” a listener may start to worry. It was not a problem here.
Luke’s surprisingly adept arrangement, while pushing the envelope of what a brass quintet is capable of, developed an irresistibly infectious spirit, highlighted by the very high-end tuba playing of John Manning.
If a brass quintet wants to be taken seriously, it has to include original compositions in its repertoire. “Passages,” written by Samuel Headrick in working collaboration with the quintet, high-lighted the ensemble’s talents. The slow, semi-detached phrasing of the first movement was nicely contrasted by the fast second movement, which had the other instruments gesturing against the rapid, stuttering accompaniment of the trumpets.
Luke’s verbal introduction to “Compressions 3,” composed in 1988 by his father, Ray, talked about using a 12-tone row from a piece by Arnold Schoenberg, leading one to believe that it was included on the program as an act of filial piety.
To the contrary, the work was listener friendly, displaying a nervous, high energy, nicely contrasted by dreamy sec-tions, before the manic ending, with the members of the quintet fully up to its challenges.
A very catchy arrangement of “Huapango” by Moncayo, gave horn player Seth Orgel and trombonist John Faieta one last chance to show their solo chops, before the high intensity, straight ahead encore “Gemini Rising” brought the house down.
Sunday, March 11, 2001 - Savannah Morning News
"Superior both as musicians and entertainers. … Uncommon agility and impeccable ensemble playing."
The Atlantic Brass Quintet blows away Savannah Onstage audience
By Doug Wyatt
A program incorporating Bach, Stravinsky, New Orleans jazz, and Frank Zappa has something for just about everyone.
The Atlantic Brass Quintet, appearing Saturday afternoon at the First Baptist Church as part of Savannah Onstage’s Jepson Classical Concert Series, played with admirable technique, flair and -- vital in an all-brass concert -- stamina. These guys (trumpeters Jeffrey Luke and Hirofumi Noguchi, Seth Orgel on horn, trombonist John Faieta, and John Manning on tuba) are superior both as musicians and entertainers.
Since brass quintets have hit the music scene only fairly recently, they don’t have a lot of their own familiar music. Their concerts tend to consist of borrowed classics, transcribed for their instruments, and contemporary music written for them, more suitable for their own idiom but not always readily accessible to the public.
The Atlantic quintet, fortunately, has the musical chops to sell all of their music -- old, borrowed, or new. From the splashy opening of “La Rejouissance” from Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” they played with assurance and pizzazz.
More muted, but undeniably elegant, was their rendition of Bach’s “Fiddle Fugue,” which on these in-struments sounds a bit mellower than the spry original. The Quintet really took off, then, with Stravinsky’s capering ‘Pulcinella” suite, performing with uncommon agility and impeccable ensemble playing.
Next was a piece actually written for brass instruments, Samuel Headrick’s “Passages.” The group made a persuasive case for the music, which consists of an adagio move-ment, at once piercing and brooding, and a mischievous, lightning-quick allegro. From the new, they moved on to a couple of golden oldies from the Renaissance, providing rousing ver-sions of a couple of Michael Prae-torious’ dances.
The program’s second half began with a blast — Bernard Rands’ “Fanfare” — and moved on to a stunning transcription of Franz Liszt’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.” As im-probable as a brass version might seem, it worked extraordinary well (though Liszt on a tuba, granted, is initially a bit bizarre).
Next up were two songs by Zappa. The late composer surely would have approved. “Big Swifty” featured a scintillating turn by trombonist Faieta; “Sofa” was first-rate. The Quintet closed their program with a lively potpourri of tunes from Costa Rica, Macedonia, and Mexico; for an encore they brought down the house with a toe-tapping, soul-swinging dollop of jazz from the Big Easy, with “Gemini Rising” earning a well-deserved ovation.
Tuesday, February 26, 2002 - The Birmingham News
Atlantic Brass does a flawless stretch
By PHILLIP RATLIFF
For the Birmingham News
Though the brass quintet has come into its own in the last half century, literature for this craggy, cumbersome ensemble remains scarce. To fill the void, enterprising quintets have two options: commission new works or steal old ones.
As for the latter, transcriptions have been the brass quintet’s bread and butter for years, but it is often the case that much is lost in the translation. As for the former, new works hold promise, but they can be artistically unambitious, and relatively few topnotch modern-day composers have given the brass quintet serious consideration.
On Sunday, the Atlantic Brass Quintet successfully navigated both pitfalls. Relying on transcriptions and newly composed works to fill their two-hour concert, the selections seemed perfectly fitted to the Atlantic’s agile, transparent sonic universe.
It was remarkable just how far the Atlantic could stretch. Who would have thought that Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 had any business in Reid Chapel on that particular afternoon? Sure, the oom-pah sections of this sprawling daydream make sense when played by what is more or less a variation of the polka band. But the athletic, ad-libbed flourishes and arpeggios were obviously intended for a fleet-fingered ensemble. The Atlantic performed the work nearly flawlessly.
Such was the case with the concert’s two new works. “Passages,” a haunting two-movement work composed for the Atlantic by Samuel Headrick, was the most challenging piece on the program. Those who stayed with it found many rewards. Most notable was the exquisite registral and dynamic ascent in the Adagio, reminiscent of the steady climb of another, more famous, Adagio the one for strings by Samuel Barber.
Ray Luke supplied the other new work, the toccata-like “Flourish,” which was constructed from layers of broadly lyrical melodies and repeated-note figures so insistent that they began to take on the quality of incoming Morse code.
Other works included a transcription of Stravinsky’s neoclassical gem “Pulci-nella,” a rousing encore entitled “Gemini Rising” (which sounded suspiciously like ESPN bumper music), and from the obligatory-pomp department movements from “Terpsichore” by Praetorius and Handel’s “Water Music.”
Freelance writer Phillip Ratliff teaches music at Miles College
Friday, May 26, 2001 - International Trumpet Guild Newsletter
Marc Geelhoed, Reporter
The Atlantic Brass Quintet gets its name from the group’s time spent out on the East Coast, originally meeting in Boston. Trumpeter Jeffrey Luke and tubist John Manning both teach at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; trumpeter Hirofumi Noguchi is a clini-cian and plays many Broadway musicals; trombonist John Faieta teaches at both the Boston Conservatory and Boston University; and Seth Orgel teaches horn at Louisiana State University. The quintet was joined on the second half by Michael Kingan, from Louisiana State University, on percussion.
They opened with La Rejouissance from Handel’s Music for the Royal Fire-works, arranged by Luke. Luke was playing a G-trumpet as Noguchi per-formed on piccolo. It was a very upbeat performance, and Manning deserves ac-knowledgement for his wonderful techni-cal work. The two trumpeters blended nicely, as did the other members. Right away, the group established that they are a unit that communicates almost tele-pathically. Second was an arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D minor by John Nelson. The prelude was slow opening to a delicate fugue. The trumpets would play lines moving in par-allel motion, and then in imitation. Luke handled some tricky lines with ease. He played a short cadenza, and the piece concluded. Luke’s arrangement of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella followed. They played five movements including Sin-fonia, Tarantella, Toccata, Minuet, and Vivo. Luke used G trumpet on the open-ing movement, which was nicely remi-niscent of the oboe in the original. Man-ning also effectively recreated the sound of a double bass. The next two move-ments were played without a break, with Noguchi on C-trumpet for both. There was an impressive hemiola in the Taran-tella, which was taken at a blazing tempo. Luke played the well-known Toccata on C-trumpet cleanly, with every phrase crisp and distinct. Noguchi switched to piccolo for the movement recreating, the woodwind parts. The Minuet had solos for Orgel and Faieta. The ending Vivo was played with gusto by Faieta, and Manning once again successfully recreated the bass line. This is a great ar-rangement of a great piece. The Stravinsky was followed by work written for the quintet by Samuel Headrick, entitled Pas-sages. The first movement, Adagio, re-minded one of Anton Webern, starting with an unaccompanied solo played by Luke. It was if they were all playing their own chorale, but the piece still fit to-gether. The Allegro was definitely fast, with the entire group multiple tonguing for many measures. The piece ended with a sputter instead of the strong finish one might expect. This is an enjoyable piece that would challenge any quintet. The first half ended with Luke’s transcrip-tions to two Dances from Terpsichore, by Michael Praetorius. The group performed while standing, and the Branle de Vil-lages had a nice Renaissance feel. The Volta brought to mind a village fair. Luke’s G-trumpet playing was exquisite.
The second half opened with Bernard Rands Fanfare, written in 1997. This Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer em-ployed textures that brought Stravinsky to mind, and had the group playing com-plex rhythmic unisons. Faieta played a strong, muscular solo over these rhythms. At a little under 2:00, this piece deserves a wider hearing. Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody followed, in Luke’s ar-rangement. It opened with a rhapsodic trombone solo, and was followed by a great horn solo performed by Manning in his upper register Big Swifty and Sofa were next, these two songs by Frank Zappa were arranged by John Nelson. Big Swifty is a rollicking song in 7/8 that sounded like Bernstein only cooler! This 4:00 piece turned into an easy swing tune before returning 7/8. Sofa is a Gospel tune Zappa wrote while visiting Watts in Los Angeles. Kingan joined the group on percussion on these pieces. Noguchi’s fantastic upper register playing was worth mentioning on the Zappa arrange-ments. The concert closed with three pieces of world-music: the Caballito Nicyano from Costa Rica, Zvonce Kolo from Serbia, and Metalifonico from Bra-zil. These were all arranges by Luke and Nelson. All the musicians seemed re-markably comfortable in these diverse idioms.
The audience demanded an encore, and the quintet performed a piece by the Mexican composer Moncallo. Kingan was using many indigenous percussion instruments on this selection that achieved the vitality for which Mexican folk music in known. The program ended in a blaze, with Faieta playing an obstreperous solo that would have fit in with any Latin big band. This group plays with excellent precision, intonation, and energy. They are simply enjoyable and exciting to listen to!