Jonathan Radford (saxophone) with Ashley Fripp (piano)
15th February, 2020. Review by Ian Barras-Hill.
Storm Dennis hit the UK on Saturday February 15th 2020 and Haywards Heath felt the brunt of some lashing rain and wind that night. However, this did not deter our valiant audience who turned out to enjoy a hugely entertaining concert by two musicians at the top of their game. It began with Jonathan Radford's arrangement of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'une faune, an impressionistic work, inspired by a poem by Stephane Mallarmé, that evokes the desires and dreams of the faun in the heat of the afternoon. The soprano saxophone replaced the more familiar flute line which Jonathan played with a haunting and melodious tone until the pace and attack stepped up in the next piece, the Sonata No 1 in A Minor Op. 105 by Robert Schumann, a late work first heard in 1852 with piano accompaniment by Clara Schumann.
A touch of Sturm und Drang...
Delivered with passionate expression, Jonathan and Ashley drove this Romantic music forward in a highly synchronised interplay of soprano sax and piano that accentuated the repeated themes through a cascade of semiquavers culminating in the final chords of the coda. The saxophone sounded more like the clarinet at the end just as the sweetness of the flute had been hinted at in the first Debussy piece.
Nights at the Alhambra
In a truly trans-continental programme, the first half ended with Albeniz's SUITE ESPANOLA Op. 47 which gave us a taste of the regional music of Spain. First, Granada (Andalucía) – a serenade that transmitted the heat of the day in its slow languorous pulse then Sevilla, based on the Seguidilla dance similar to flamenco.
Jonathan's fluent runs on the soprano sax keys captured the swirling majesty of the dance beautifully, whilst Ashley struck the syncopated rhythms to perfection.
It takes Two to Tango, then there was Gershwin!
The second half took us first to Buenos Aires then to New York. We heard L'HISTOIRE du TANGO by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), one of the most famous compositions by this Argentinian composer. Bordello, 1900 is a lively tango, originally played on guitar and flute, where the women tease the policemen, thieves, sailors and riffraff who come to see them. The mood changed in Café, 1930 with the tango taken at a softer, rhapsodic pace. Here Jonathan played melancholy harmonies on the soprano sax with a rich plangent tone, at times sounding a bit like film music. The last movement Night Club, 1960 introduced new styles of tango influenced by international dance crazes like the bossa nova, and a profound alteration to the original tango forms. Jonathan picked up the pace with a tirade of sparkling arpeggios and off- beat clusters of notes.
Finally, we thrilled to the soaring glissando wail of Jonathan's alto sax at the start of Gershwin's RHAPSODY IN BLUE - the tour de force of the concert. He performed this dazzling work on three saxophones, but the focus was very much on the piano with Ashley driving the intoxicating rhythms of this symphonic jazz piece and holding it all together with Jonathan in a brilliant interplay of matched instruments. Clearly our audience loved these two and clapped enthusiastically throughout, and at the welcome encore.
In this concert we saw fresh life breathed into familiar works through skilful transcriptions and arrangements by Jonathan and other arrangers. It was a pleasure to hear how the combination of soprano, alto and tenor saxophones with piano worked so well together.