Gaudete Brass Quintet
ÇEDILLE 136 (63:00)
Sonata for Brass Quintet.
A Great Commercial City.
The Gaudete Brass Quintet is a Chicago-based ensemble specializing in the performance of new compositions and of historically informed performances of Renaissance music in their own editions. Formed in 2004, they are teachers and freelance musicians who are creating a corporate name for themselves through a variety of concert and educational programs throughout the country. This new recording on the Çedille label, joining two previous releases on other labels, is made up entirely of works written since 2006—four were written in 2011—and all but one was commissioned by the ensemble. The writing is tonal and, to the extent that it can be generalized, the style is Americana school, often informed by jazz. All of the works, with the exception mentioned below, appear on disc for the first time.
The earliest work, and the one non-Gaudete commission, is Joan Tower’s
, written for the American Brass Quintet on a commission from the Juilliard School. Tower originally scored it for a quintet with bass trombone, so Çedille can, since Gaudete fields a tuba, claim a recording premiere in this instrumentation. Her work is a tribute to the copper in brass instruments, and to her geologist/mining engineer father and his work in South America where she grew up. The wave part of the title refers to the form, in which, as the composer describes it, “the ideas move in waves: sometimes heavy ones and sometimes lighter.” It is writing of enormous vigor—darkly ominous in the Gaudete reading—with occasional Latin rhythms gaining ascendency and then being submerged: intriguing music from a veteran composer.
James Woodward’s 2007
, the ensemble’s first commission, takes its name from the ensemble, and sets its purpose on the meaning of that name:
. It is a short, warm-hearted celebratory piece with the open, gleaming aura of extended harmonies. John Cheetham’s 2008 Sonata for Brass Quintet, classically proportioned in three movements, is the most immediately appealing of the works on the program. It begins with a light, easy-going
with an underlying Kurt Weill-like impertinence, followed by a lyrical, but unsentimental
with solos for all players, particularly the trombone, and concludes with an
in which the syncopated recurring theme of the rondo recalls Bernstein in jazz mode.
The four works from 2011 are perhaps less compelling than the others, but still well worth hearing. Brian Baxter’s
A Great Commercial City
is a brash, restless portrait of Chicago, loosely based on the folk song
used in the 1880s to encourage westward migration. Stacy Garrop’s
paints an aural diptych of the chariot-driving sun-god’s traversal of the sky and his tranquil return to the east on the world-circling river Okeanos.
, Rob Deemer’s clever three-movement exploration of the various sound capabilities of brass instruments evokes pealing bells, celebrates the nocturnal jazziness of the instruments muted, and concludes with an enthusiastic, boogie-woogie tribute to the glissando. Finally, the namesake of the release
is David Sampson’s witty travelogue of four of the city’s landmarks: a third-stream Grant Park, a minimalist march to The Spaghetti Bowl, a slightly bluesy Loop Lament, and a wild drive down Lake Shore Drive with blaring horns and careening traffic.
Throughout, the Gaudete Brass impresses with precise attacks, spot-on intonation, and the kind of unstrained virtuosity that bespeaks an easy working relationship. Only in a few moments of
did I think that another take might have tightened ensemble. Çedille has provided the quintet with clear sonics, roomy dynamics, and plenty of air. My only quibble with the engineering involves the tuba, who often sounds off-mic or in a different acoustic. That said, there are samples online and lots of places to buy the disc; this is an ensemble and a release well worth exploring.
Ronald E. Grames