The opening work on this lively program tests the boundaries of musical categories, featuring a thoroughly jazzy language. But before I ferry this release over to Michael Ullman’s The Jazz Column, the work needs to be considered in several aspects. It is a fully written out piece, with, as far as I can hear, no room for improvisation. More importantly, in the context of the rest of this program, it becomes clear that Arthur Gottschalk is a serious, academically trained composer who happens to be expert at incorporating jazz idioms, which he clearly delights in, into a broader voice that also includes classical elements, most notable, the sonata-allegro form.
The first Sonata here is for alto sax and piano, and while the overall architecture of the work is dictated by Classical form, elements within are diverse. It is a three movement work, two vigorous outer movements surrounding a fascinating stylistic portmanteau, a nocturne waltz, with a decidedly bluesy character. Gottschalk dabbles in a kind of minimalistic language in the Oh, More or Less for the lovely combination of tenor sax and bass clarinet. That description is prompted by the regular rhythmic patterns, as well as the repetition of motifs and the looping over of melodic lines. The Sonata for Bass Clarinet and Piano brings us back to jazz influences, deliberately so, with homages to such standards as Salt Peanuts and Green Dolphin Street, here with “dolphin” appearing as “Dolphy,” a tip of the hat to the great avant-garde flute and sax artist Eric Dolphy. Salt Peanuts Memorial Barbeque is a playful and clever deconstruction of Charlie Parker style be-bop.
This collection concludes in a very different mood compared to the preceding material. Shalom, scored for tenor sax, bass clarinet and choir, is a slow moving work featuring long-lined singing decorated by sax and clarinet riffs. The sound is reverent, with harmonic and rhythmic qualities that derive from Jewish and Islamic sources (which are similar enough after all). It is an unexpected, but peaceful way to conclude an otherwise delightfully raucous collection of music.