Thomas G. Leslie / UNLV Wind Orchestra

Concerto for Marienthal

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The UNLV Wind Orchestra's Klavier release Concerto for Marienthal is so titled because the featured work is Michael Kamen's Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra (1998), initially composed for David Sanborn, as performed by jazz saxophonist Eric Marienthal, best known for his work as a solo jazz artist and as a member of the Rippingtons, Chick Corea's Elektric Band, and other jazz groups. Marienthal -- like Kamen once did -- maintains a strong connection to both the practical and formal ends of music, publishing three books on saxophone technique, producing teaching videos, coaching high school and college wind players, and booking the occasional "straight" concert. Kamen's concerto is a generally outstanding sax concerto that has two very strong, serious, and richly scored movements and a third that is less so owing to its TV theme-like character. Marienthal performs it winningly and with a little more roughness of tone than would Sanborn; at times it's a little like Cannonball Adderley stepping in to blow a little on the Kamen. As good as the performance is, there are some listeners who might not be able to get through the third movement, which can tend toward the monotonous.

Apart from the concerto, the strongest music on Klavier's Concerto for Marienthal is Morton Gould's tiny Fanfare for Freedom (1943) and Malcolm Arnold's by-now familiar overture Tam O'Shanter (1955) and Johan Halvorsen's very fine remembrance of author Bjørnstjerne Bjornson In Memoriam (1910). Masami Kimura's band arrangement of Tchaikovsky's song None But the Lonely Heart is pleasant, but feels like filler between Clark McAlister's This Is the Day and Anthony LaBounty's Prayer for Asia. As neither of these pieces are particularly strong -- although the McAlister work starts out well, it doesn't hold the attention -- this creates a kind of impasse in the center of the disc. That is due, however, to the programming rather than the playing, which is first-rate throughout; the UNLV Wind Orchestra is one of the best in the land and Klavier is consistently good at producing high-quality symphonic band discs; from the start of the Gould, you're there, and the sound is rich, full, and nuanced. The program itself was meant as a memorial to some of the family members, supporters, and at least one musician within the UNLV Wind Orchestra and given as a live concert before recording. What works in the concert hall is not always what's best in a recording's sequence, so perhaps some reshuffling of the program might have helped. Nevertheless, Klavier's Concerto for Marienthal is everything UNLV intended it to be, and perhaps there's a way to reprogram it to improve its flow.

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