Home Big Band Queensland Conservatorium Saxophone Orchestra – 24 May 2012

Queensland Conservatorium Saxophone Orchestra – 24 May 2012

There was more ‘sax on the river’ than has ever been seen or heard before when the QCSO took the stage at the BJC, along with two support bands – St Peters Lutheran Sax Ensemble and Brisbane Municipal Concert Band & Brisbane City Big Band ‘Stax of Sax’ players.

The first 30 minutes were shared by the SPLSE directed by Mark Pradella and Stax of Sax directed by David Jones. Diana Tolmie lead the QCSO for the rest of this “Sax to the Max” evening , with these players from the Conservatorium giving us a highly professional presentation of the many and varied sounds of the saxophone family in a number of sparkling arrangements, proving the versatility of this wondrous instrument and the dexterity and expertise of the band members who demonstrated it.

The saxophone is probably the one instrument that immediately has connotations with jazz in most people’s minds. A comparative newcomer in the musical world, it was invented by Adolphe Sax  in 1846, and has the distinction of being a brass- bodied instrument blown through a reed, and therefore counted as part of the ‘woodwind’ group in the orchestra. While alto, tenor and baritone saxes, and even soprano, are a relatively common sight in jazz and pop music, the other models – bass, contrabass, subcontrabass, and sopranino – would be rarely seen outside of classical or perhaps military music. The sonorous sound of the tenor has often been equated to the human voice, and perhaps the Bb pitching makes it a good companion to write and arrange for, along with the Bb trumpet.

In comparison with clarinet or trumpet the saxophone has a much broader fullness of tone and many different ‘colours’, depending on the expertise of the player. This makes it a versatile and popular instrument with an ‘up close and personal’ sound in the lower register and bright, fluid sounds in up tempo full-flight pieces.

With Louise Denson –  piano, Helen Russell –  bass, Tom Robb – drums and Andrew Hobler – guitar, the 14-piece QCSO performed such favourites as Moondance, Caravan, Spain and showed that tango master Piazzolla’s Libertango is not necessarily the preserve of violins and bandaneon. However a didgeridoo did manage to invade the pitch for one number in the capable hands of Geoff Sabila, while solos by such names as Matt Christensen, Darren McPhearson, Andrew Ball, Shane Palmada, Alex Fletcher and Joe Roberts were on the bill with guest vocalists Sharney Russell and Amanda Mooney.

This all goes to prove that jazz in Brisbane is swingingly healthy and that the saxophone is way up there as one of its favourite instruments. In all we were treated to the sounds of around 30 saxophone players and at 152 people through the door it was a busy night with only one volunteer – Yasmin, doing a great job. I’m sure that this will continue to be a great attraction and we will eagerly look forward to the next occasion.