Cover Art:  Leanne Koonce

REVIEWED BY:  Dr. Steve Carmichael is a freelance saxophonist in the Washington DC area who is active as both a performer and educator. Formerly, director of Jazz Studies at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin and a 20-year veteran of the US Navy Bands, he has an extensive background in both classical and jazz saxophone.

CD:  Step Inside

Label: Equilibrium Recordings

Website: https://www.roguetwoduo.com

 

Rogue Two:  Step Inside

by Dr. Steve Carmichael

Rogue Two’s debut recording, Step Inside: New American Music for Saxophone and Percussion, Is a most welcome addition to the burgeoning saxophone chamber music scene. A true Duo, their music cannot be defined as strictly saxophone, or percussion literature. The compositions evenly display the highly developed skills and musicianship of both performers, while extending the timbral possibilities of this chamber combination. 

 

The first track, Step Inside, by Greg Simon introduces the ensemble with a unison, pointillistic melodic groove that gives way to a more contemplative dialog between soprano saxophone and marimba before developing a more complex melodic groove. This is thoughtful composition, full of beauty that satisfies audiences of all experience levels. 

 

Step Inside presented a dialogue between two musical voices.  Jay C. Batzner’s Reflections On The Nature of Impermanence for tenor saxophone and snare drum shatters this dialogue. Brooding, ECM Records style tenor saxophone melodies existing for brief moments, interrupted by insistent snare drum solos.  

 

While Stephen Hicken’s Two Fragments for vibraphone and marimba is the first piece on this recording to abandon the duo format, it does provide a balance to the upcoming Leda Monologuefor solo alto saxophone by Jesse Jones. Both pieces work well as solo intermezzo pieces proceeding Jamie Whitmarsh’s Buckle Up for alto saxophone and marimba.

 

My favorite piece on the CD, and perhaps the most mature composition, is Andy Francis’ Serenity for alto saxophone and percussion. This three movement work challenges the saxophonist with writing in the extreme range, while the percussionist utilizes various bowed percussion techniques and a large selection of instruments. The piece flows well with its difficult rhythms and long phrases. One can sense that the performers are dedicated to this piece and have prepared well for the performance.

 

Get it! By Gene Koshinski is what everyone want’s to hear, a very funky baritone saxophone and percussion that just makes you happy. The perfect encore to a recording that starts off with a good dialogue, turns introspective, becomes individualistic, reunites the duo and hits us with a tour de force saxophone and percussion piece. The pacing of the CD gives one the feeling of a thoughtfully programed recital.

 

 

 Worthy of any music library, Step Inside: New American Music for Saxophone and Percussionpresents a fresh approach to the saxophone and percussion duo. The literature presented is a departure from the complex intensities of composers such as Xenakis. Full of rhythmic counterpoint,  ensemble interplay, sensitive percussive melodies, and virtuosic saxophone performance this recording belongs in your collection.