Filling seats

Works reviewed: 
Sonata in Bb Major, George Fredrick Handel
Quartet No. 1 (1992), Stephen Parisi
Fantasia on a Fowl Air (1993), Stephen Reisteter
Buffalo News
Buffalo, NY
Nov 12 1993
Herman Trotter

AT THE BOTTOM of the page, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet's program for this season-opening concert carries the following warning: "If you are not a season ticket holder, don't blame us if an ASQ concert is blacked out on local television."

The ASQ has always banked on interestingly varied programs and performance quality to attract their audiences.

But a few years ago shrinking public funding dictated new measures. One of the techniques they began to invoke even more than before was humor, adding such cryptic foot-notes as the above, an obvious send-up of the Buffalo Bills' weekly ticket countdown.

Despite all this, the most artistically successful saxophone ensemble in the country still is having monumental difficulties.

This season they are taking more positive steps to stop the bleeding. They're giving their audience a choice of three venues, presenting concerts once each in a downtown location, the Calumet Arts Cafe; a mid-town location, Nichols School; and a suburban location, the VB North Campus.

Thursday's full house at the Calumet was rewarded with a vintage ASQ program.

Handel's Sonata in B-Flat, with its crisply played Fugue and heart-melting Andante established the immediacy of the Calumet acoustics. The in-your-face sonority could be damaging, but with the ASQ's immaculate ensemble and fine balances it was just a different, not a jarring experience.

Florent Schmitt's 1948 Quartet and Eugene Bozza's 1968 "Clouds-Scherzo" are among the most difficult works in the repertoire, but neither fazed the ASQ.

It was good to hear Buffalo composer Stephen Parisi's 1992 Quartet again. Its easy mix of baroque, folk, jazz, modern and flowing lyric influences, and its concluding chatterbox of syncopated staccato sounds are evidence of a strongly creative homegrown talent.

Stephen Reisteter's new "Fantasy on a Fowl Air" is a hoot. A zillion references to the classics whizzed by so fast it was hard to get a fix on them, and were tied together by a jocular, repeated reference to the Jack Yellen/Sammy Fain song "Are You Havin' Any Fun?" It was a big hit.

So were the obligatory jazz and ragtime offerings, from "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" to Miles Davis' "All Blues," Russ Carere's "Masako" and Eubie Blake's rag classic, "Dictys on 7th Avenue."

Filling seats