EIF 2013: Sax Ecosse Review

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Sax Ecosse
Karen Dufour (soprano, saxophone), Michelle Melvin (saxophone), Gillian Skingley (tenor, saxophone), Lynsey Payne (baritone, saxophone)
Running time

The Hub – home of the Edinburgh International Festival – is hosting a variety of eclectic Café Concerts in celebration of the founding of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music 50 years ago.

Menuhin was passionate about encouraging young outstanding musicians and in 1977 (along with Ian Stoutzker) founded Live Music Now of which Sax Ecosse are former graduates. Created in 2004, their reputation as outstanding musicians continues to grow from strength to strength.

It’s unusual for women to play saxophones, and unusual to hear a sax quartet, but Karen Dufour (soprano sax); Michelle Melvin (alto sax); Gillian Skingley (tenor tax) and Lynsey Payne (baritone sax) entertained us with a quirky, funky collection of compositions, which highlighted their astounding versatility.

They chose four pieces, starting with Jonathan Dove’s ‘Tuning In’- an amusing musical conversation for saxophones. Then Diana Salazar’s ‘Bailes Mecanicos’ - a perfect piece to illustrate the range of their instruments. Next was Ligeti’s 6 Bagatelles. Originally scored for a wind quintet it was adapted for a sax quartet and they played the first, second and sixth bagatelle.

The next composition was by Barbara Thompson, possibly Britain’s most famous jazz saxophonist, who has been an inspiration to Sax Ecosse. Soon after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Thompson began to compose and the quartet chose to perform a movement from her Quartet No 3 ‘Body Language.’

The last piece was Joe Cutler’s ‘Screaming 229a’. Full of explosive energy, emphasising a frantic urban environment, it was packed with complex contrapuntal rhythms which perfectly illustrated their impeccable precision.

The Hub Café was a perfect venue for this exceptionally talented Sax Quartet and not only did we have the opportunity of hearing these gifted musicians perform we also got an inkling into their delightful personalities as each piece was introduced by one of the players. A highly entertaining concert.

Event: 19 August, 9pm