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Saxophone Impressions
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849) and Krzysztof HERDZIN (1970-)
Homage à Chopin [18:20]
Ástor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Tango Ballet (arr. Pawel Gusnar) [12:47]
Oblivion (arr. Pawel Gusnar) [4:36]
George GERSHWIN (1897-1938)
Porgy and Bess (arr. Pawel Gusnar and Ryszard Borowski) [20:04]
Ennio (b.1928) and Andrea (b.1964) MORRICONE
Intro Paradiso (arr. Tomasz Szymus) [3:31]
Nino ROTA (1911-1979)
Romeo and Juliet (arr. Tomasz Szymus) [4:45]
Pawel Gusnar (saxophone)
Witold Lutoslawski Chamber Orchestra in Lomza/Jan Milosz Zarzycki
rec. 25-27 November 2011, Lomza Concert Hall, Poland
DUX 0885 [64:05] 

This saxophone disc is fun. Take enjoyable source material - Chopin, Piazzolla tangos, Gershwin, movie scores - and arrange it for saxophone and chamber orchestra. Add a talented saxophonist and a pretty darn good band, and you have a fun little hour.
 
Krzysztof Herdzin, about whom the booklet says nothing, has arranged five Chopin pieces into a suite. The arrangements are clever: they stray from the originals in imaginative ways, adding dissonant edge to the harmonies and wholly new accompaniments, and part of the fun lies in recognizing how Chopin’s ideas have turned into new ones. Some might be more successful than others; I didn’t like the mock-Satie ‘Minute’ waltz as much as the rest, and the etude Op. 10 No. 3 has a couple of brief moments where the harmonies border on easy-listening.
 
Then we’ve got a few Piazzolla tangos - Oblivion by itself and several more arranged into a ballet - and a suite based on Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. The suite does a good job sticking to the opera’s original order, so it’s not a totally free fantasy after the brief all-new introduction. Solo sax player Pawel Gusnar is credited as one of the arrangers. Two encores, from Morricone and Rota, are lovingly played and beyond reproach.
 
Unfortunately poor documentation means I can’t tell you much about the music. The booklet discusses the performers exclusively, so who Krzysztof Herdzin is, or the origins of the Tango Ballet, or when or for whom these arrangements were made, is basically a mystery to me. Plus, somebody (the label? the arranger?) misspelled Hommage à Chopin by including only one ‘m’, and the Rota tune comes from Romeo and Julia (!). Finally, there’s the surprise when you open the plastic SACD-style case and discover this isn’t a SACD … or even a hybrid.
 
Still, if you don’t mind not knowing too much about how all these old favorites got arranged for these performers, and just want to sit back and enjoy, this will provide you with a great deal of pleasure. This isn’t an album for profundity, great surprises, or life-enhancing experiences, but sometimes you need a CD that’s good for background music while sipping wine with friends, and this is good for that kind of thing.
 
Brian Reinhart 


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