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Quartet has ‘anonymous fame’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The saxophone is usually associated with jazz, and for good reason.

Some of the most famous jazz musicians have played the saxophone – John Coltrane, Charley Parker, Gerry Mulligan and Lester Young, to name a few.

Four other saxophonists who haven’t achieved such fame are Reginald Jackson, James Steele, Rick Parrell and Rich Kleinfeldt. They aren’t jazz musicians, but they’ve made a name for themselves as the longtime members of the Washington Saxophone Quartet.

If you go
WHAT: Washington Saxophone Quartet
WHEN and WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church, Old Church Road, Corrales, and 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco, Santa Fe
HOW MUCH: Tickets for the Corrales concert are $22 in advance at Frame-n-Art or at www.brownpapertickets.com, or $25 at the door. Tickets for the Santa Fe concert are $15, $20, $25 and $30 with student discounts in advance by calling 505-988-1234, or by visiting www.ticketssantafe.org, at the box office or at the door

The quartet will play classical music, Christmas music and a medley of songs from “West Side Story” in concerts at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales and the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe.

The holiday music on the program includes tunes from the ensemble’s newest CD “‘Tis the Season” and from Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” suite.

The 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 this year is the 100th anniversary of the French composer’s birth and because it’s a work written expressly for four saxes.

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

“If the venue gives us a chance to play, we guarantee them the audience will be pleasantly surprised by what they hear – the sound and the music to some extent,” Kleinfeldt, who plays tenor sax, said in a phone interview from Arlington, Va.

“What they’re not expecting is a group like ours – saxophones that can play classical pieces. 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 said the quartet also enjoys what he termed “anonymous fame.” It holds that questionable distinction because since 1997 it has been heard playing variations on the theme of the NPR show “All Things Considered.”

That anonymity is reinforced when the ensemble plays concerts in towns around the country and the players ask audience members if they’ve ever heard a saxophone quartet before. Few raise their hands.

Then the quartet plays the variations on radio program’s theme. All raise their hands, Kleinfeldt said.

Besides the tenor saxophone, the other three instruments in the ensemble are soprano sax, alto sax and baritone sax.

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