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Sax Quartet Enjoys Anonymous Fame

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The saxophone has been linked to jazz for decades.

Among the most famous jazz musicians have been saxophonists John Coltrane, Charley Parker, Coleman Hawkins and Gerry Mulligan.

Four other saxophonists – Reginald Jackson, James Steele, Rick Parrell and Rich Kleinfeldt – have found what they describe as “anonymous fame” in a non-jazz context. They are the longtime members of the WSaxQ, shorthand for the Washington Saxophone Quartet.

If you go
What: Washington Saxophone Quartet
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
WHERE: Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Old Church Road, Corrales
HOW MUCH: $22 in advance at Frame-n-Art or by visiting or $25 at the door.

Anonymous because since 1997 the quartet has been heard playing on the National Public Radio program “All Things Considered” variations of that program’s theme.

That anonymity is reinforced when the ensemble plays concerts in communities around the country.

Kleinfeldt said the players often ask audience members if they’ve ever heard a saxophone quartet. Few raise their hands, he said.

Then the quartet plays a variation on the theme of “All Things Considered.”

That’s when just about everyone raises their hands, Kleinfeldt said.

The quartet will be playing classical music, Christmas music and a medley of songs from “West Side Story” in a concert Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales. The concert is part of the Music in Corrales series.

Christmas tunes include selections from the ensemble’s “Tis the Season” CD and from Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” suite.

Classical pieces on the program include J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero,” “Simple Gifts” from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring” and Jean Francaix’s Petit Quatuor pour Saxophones.

Kleinfeldt said the quartet is playing the Francaix because 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the French composer’s birth and because it’s a work written expressly for four saxes.

Francaix, he said, liked it so much that the composer arranged it for woodwind quartet.

“If the venue gives us a chance to play, we guarantee them the audience will be pleasantly surprised by what they hear …” Kleinfeldt said in a phone interview from Arlington, Va.

“There’s a preconceived notion that the sax is jazz. I explain to them that we do just about anything, Renaissance, baroque, contemporary pieces and some jazzy sounding pieces.”

Kleinfeldt plays tenor sax. The other three instruments in the ensemble are soprano sax, alto sax and baritone sax.