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Manhattan Saxophone Ensemble: The Dogwalk

Manhattan Saxophone Ensemble

Technically, the Manhattan Saxophone Ensemble isn’t a quartet; they use a drummer/percussionist once in a while. But so does the World Saxophone Quartet, and they still use the Q word. The two most well known all-sax groups-World Saxophone Quartet and Rova-have generally approached their art from an avant-garde or free perspective. Not so, the Manhattan Saxophone Ensemble. On The Dogwalk, the group’s first album, the usual improv-heavy sax-quartet formula is supplanted by post-bop-centered arranging and composition. Versions of such classic jazz vehicles as Sonny Stitt’s “Eternal Triangle” and Harold Arlen’s “Get Happy” are painstakingly crafted and immaculately executed. Tim Ries’ original “Your Gentle Heart” is among the more intriguing jazz-derived compositions I’ve heard recently. The individual band members (Gunnar Mossblad, tenor, soprano and wooden flutes; Steve Wilson and Charles Pillow, alto; Dave Riekenberg, tenor; Ries, bari; Howard Curtis, drums and percussion) are all accomplished soloists, but it’s the sophisticated and often quite lengthy arrangements that ultimately set the band apart. Whether one digs this sort of thing depends largely upon how much he or she values unfettered improvisation as opposed to the craft of composition. Regardless, the music is interesting and extremely well done.

Originally Published