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Presidio Saxophone Quartet takes the saxophone back to its roots

The Presidio Saxophone Quartet will play in the Placitas Artists Series today.

The Presidio Saxophone Quartet will play in the Placitas Artists Series today.

SANTA FE, N.M. — Think saxophone and what kind of music comes to mind? Jazz, of course. Not for the Presidio Saxophone Quartet. It takes the instrument back to its roots – to classical music.

Belgian-born Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1846 for classical performances by four-saxensemble. The Presidio is sticking with that concept.

“We started in 1998 with goal to bring classical saxophone music to the everyday concertgoer,” said Presidio soprano sax player Michael Keepe.

The quartet will be in concert Dec. 13 at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church as part of the Placitas Artists Series.

“It’s very similar to a string quartet. Instead of first and second violin you’ve got soprano and alto sax. The tenor sax is the viola and the baritone sax the cello,” Keepe said.

The Presidio opens the concert with J.S. Bach’s Air on a G string. Keepe called it “a lovely transcription that works well for our group and is recognizable to people.”

That’s followed by the first work ever written for saxophone quartet – “Allegro de Concert.” Jean Baptiste Singelee was the composer and Sax commissioned it, Keepe said.

The Presidio is playing the first movement of “The Shannon Suite,” a new work by Irish composer Ciaran Farrell.

“He wrote three movements based on the different loughs in Ireland. It’s almost ethereal, depicting the atmosphere when you appreciate the water and surroundings,” Keepe said. It was written for guitar but never performed, and was later arranged for saxophone quartet.

What he called the Presidio’s “heavy hitter piece,” is Judith Zaimont’s “Parallel Play.”

One can hear how Zaimont, who just celebrated her 70th birthday, uses the quartet’s instruments to work with and against each other, Keepe explained.

The program also features Isaac Albeniz’s “Sevilla,” Graham Lynch’s “Pale Dancer,” and Rudy Wiedoeft’s 1917 piece “Valse Erica.”

Closing the concert is the jazz standard “There Will Never Be Another You.”

The other members of the Tucson, Ariz.,-based Presidio are Derek Granger on alto sax, Cesar Manjarrez on tenor and Ryan McCormick on baritone.

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