With Ponder Nothing, Amherst Saxophone Quartet member Susan Fancher has delivered a strong and well-balanced program of contemporary music. Composers known and relatively unknown, difficult and more accessible pieces -- they all reach an interesting balance here. Of course, above it all is Fancher's clear, warm tone on the alto saxophone. Disciplined, she nonetheless holds the spark that can turn austere music into something emotional. The CD begins with her saxophone transcription of Steve Reich's New York Counterpoint. Fancher handles alto and soprano parts, while Mark Engebretson (also the album's producer) recorded the tenor and baritone tracks for this 11-voice mosaic. Reich's delicate construction makes an excellent opener as it draws the listener in for close inspection -- the perfect state of mind to appreciate Giacinto Scelsi's Tre Pezzi, the next piece. Each movement hovers around a tonal center. Fancher renders each journey away from it with a lot of artistry. The other point of interest on this CD is Wolfram Wagner's Sonata (with Yoko Yamada on piano). Adopting a classical form, it nevertheless calls for virtuosity and challenges the listener. The first movement, Variations, features competing meters. That work, Alexander Wagendristel's Saxoscope (a bit too technical), and Engebretson's She Sings, She Screams (a difficult piece with tape part) were commissioned by the saxophonist.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture
feat: Mark Engebretson