Broken ReeD Quintet 

Songs of Love and Passion

By Jordan VanHemert

Founded in 2002 by alto saxophonist and composer Charley Gerard, the Broken Reed Saxophone Quartet (BRSQ) is based in Brooklyn, New York. Songs of Love and Passion is the most recent offering from the ensemble. The record consists of twelve tracks, each based on a poem. The recording features vocalist Kristin Slipp, and The Broken Reed Saxophone Quartet (Jenny Hill, soprano; Charley Gerard, alto; Jacob Teichroew, tenor, Dimitri Moderbacher, baritone).

Consisting mostly of Gerard’s music, which he chooses to call “alternative jazz”, Gerard’s music consists of crystal clarity in tonality and texture. Gerard’s music, as a whole, is incredibly evocative and dramatic, always taking a new twist or turn. However, these twists are not alienating to the listener. Jenny Hill contributes the only piece not written by Gerard, a clever play on passion, ending with a skillful and transparent arrangement of McCoy Tyner’s “Passion Dance.”

The haunting purity of Slipp’s vocal is a perfect match for the counterpoint in Gerard’s compositions. The phrase lengths of are mostly symmetrical with clear cadences using functional jazz harmony. All of the members of the ensemble have very unique sounds befitting the material. These sounds make the counterpoint in Gerard’s arrangements clearer. This is particularly well­articulated in “Between Breath and Death” where the text painting captures the lyric perfectly. Hill’s subtle soprano saxophone tone perfectly suits the text of this piece.

“Love and Then It’s Gone” was a suitable start for this album. The ascending melodic figures that cascade through the ensemble seem to evaporate into the ether, which I quite enjoyed. Gerard’s poignant writing shines as the quartet performs “Real.” Slipp’s phrasing is enhanced by Gerard’s arrangement and the quartet’s dynamic subtleties. Especially impressive is the way in which the quartet matches the clarity of Slipp’s diction.

The improvised solos on this record are intentionally sparse. However, in “Passion Dance” and “La Llorona”, we hear especially remarkable solos from the quartet. I admire the brevity of these solos. They are framed perfectly by the ensemble passages.

Overall, I recommend this album to anyone who is looking for a unique chamber jazz experience with interesting writing and a unique instrumentation.