The Saxophone Gets Its Due
Baljinder Sekhon: Alchemy
Innova Recordings (October 22, 2021)
Composer: Baljinder Sekhon
Performers: Doug O’Connor; Eastman Percussion Ensemble; Michael Burritt; Victor LaBozzetta; Carla Lackey; Andrew Bockman; Justin Lamb; Emma Gierszal; Jeremy Vigil; Chien-Kwan Lin; Nicki Roman; Zach Stern; Colin Crake; Myles Boothroyd; Kevin Zhao; Siobhan Plouffe; Tyler Wiessner; Stephanie Venturino; Clancy Ellis; Jeremy Howell; Michael Matthews; Uday Singh; Red Line Saxophone Quartet; Brandon Kies; Gai Qun; Quinn Lewis; Baljinder Sekhon; University of South Florida Symphony Orchestra; William Wiedrich
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Playful, evocative, emotional, cinematic - the work of composer Baljinder Sekhon employs all the colours and shades of the saxophone in this collection of pieces composed and recorded over a decade-long period.
At the heart of the project lies a collaboration between saxophonist Doug O'Connor and the composer. Sekhon, currently Assistant Professor of Composition at Penn State University, is known for his works for sax and percussion, and that emphasis on rhythm is present in the works on this release.
The saxophone is perhaps the only standard wind/brass instrument that's not a regular member of the typical orchestra. It has been excluded from the usual repertoire as a result, with a very few exceptions from early 20th century composers.
Listening to Sekkon's work, it's hard to understand why. The sax is showcased in various settings, from a chamber ensemble to sax quartet with real-time electronics. In The Offering, the sax is a soloist set against a full orchestra, and it's a virtuosic tour through the instrument's capabilities. O'Connor is a master of his instrument, and able to persuade it to sing lyrically as well as percussively.
In Gradient 2.0, a moody and emotional piece, the mournful sax is part of a percussion ensemble. Sonata of Puzzles, in three movements, has a melodic heart with a dash of comedy and theatricality, using the sax's voice in all its elastic possibility.
Sekhon has also looked to experiment with sounds as well as the structure of composition in these five works. The intellectual depth will intrigue music nerds, but the inventive sense of musicality will draw in any lover of contemporary music.