Dan Goble / Russell Hirshfield

Mad Dances: American Music for Saxophone and Piano

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The title of this album is an incredibly fitting one, for the pieces sound very much like mad dances. Dan Goble on various saxophones and Russell Hirshfield on piano take a listener on an aural roller coaster through dissonance, atonality, complex rhythms, and even occasional tenderness. Goble's saxophone technique is solid and smooth; he never breaks or cracks, whether he is playing with clarinet-like sweetness in pieces like "La follia nuova" from Albright's sonata or incredible agility in the scherzo from the same work. Holy Roller begins rather like a film noir score, with a moody and smoky saxophone until the piano enters, creating a jazzy dialogue between the two instruments that is full of tricky rhythms that Goble and Hirshfield master. Particularly interesting in Skookum Suite is the first movement, which truly sounds like the saxophone and piano chasing or hotly pursuing something; the rest of the piece tends to sound rather the same, and its random, non-melodic character may not be to everyone's taste. Albright's sonata features a variety of moods that Goble and Hirshfield capture very well. One can feel the clear sense of motion to the end in the first movement, contrasted with the somber piano introduction of the second movement, where the piano is the star. The fourth movement is the most exciting, and recalls Dave Brubeck when the piano enters. The longer lines of David Diamond's sonata are a nice change to listen to, and the allegro vivo at the end keeps the listener thoroughly engaged until it walks right offstage. Perhaps the most tonal and conventional of all of the pieces on the album is the Acrostic Song (from Final Alice). Poignant and quietly nocturnal, it draws the listener in and is perhaps a welcome respite from the leapy atonality of most of the previous pieces on the album. Those with broad tastes may notice a certain similarity to the ragas of Indian classical music. Regardless, one cannot help but admire Goble and Hirshfield's talents in playing such difficult music with great technique and, most of all, a sense of fun.

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