by Lachlan Davidson, 2009
After the awesome experience of playing as a soloist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra several years ago, I was wrapt to be asked to do it again, this time in a very different setting. I was sent a recording of the Concerto for Tenor Saxophone and orchestra, by John Psathas (a New Zealand composer) played by one of my heroes, Michael Brecker, and asked if this was something I was interested in playing.
Interested?! – Most definitely! Capable? – Though daunted by the fiendishly fast tempo and unusual structure added to fact that I hadn’t been playing the Tenor or improvised much in the recent past, I wasn’t going to say no. I do relish a challenge.
Two months out from the performance (the concert was on Saturday 13 May 2006) the music arrived with a live recording plus a midi recording. (Sampled instruments played by the computer – a great practice tool.) I had put the word out that I was keen to play Tenor on more gigs if possible though the entrenchment of myself in the role of an Alto player in most situations remained firmly in understandably place.
A frighteningly hectic schedule of playing and arranging for Dancing with the Stars, plus other projects and maintaining a presence at my 0.6 teaching job and with my family, meant that practice would be hard to come by. So would head space and sleep.
My Tenor playing is heavily influenced by Michael Brecker. I particularly admire blow, articulation and technique. I don’t believe many people have ever achieved such command of the Tenor Saxophone. As I write, I believe he is gravely ill and I have borne this in mind throughout my preparations for this piece. I wish him well soon.
The greatest respect I can show him is to not try to emulate his performances on this Concerto but to learn from them and use some of his principles – not details, in my performance. I’m not sure I put that well, but suffice to say that it was important not to copy him. Therefore I only listened to the recordings a couple of times before striving to bring everything I have into focus for this piece and to gain some new or more advanced skills into existence.
From then outset I wanted to be fluent, uncontrived, musical, individual and to enjoy myself. I wanted to give the music its due by giving it the best I had.
This concerto depends on the soloists (Sax and drums) improvising 95% of the music to a harmonic and dynamic structure.
Brief instructions were given such as: Freak ou. Atonal, or Build to bar 276. I had either Chord symbols: eg. Abtr/Bbtr or diminished scales in the firest bar of a section. Much of the piece was derived from diminished scales to which I must confess to having largely ignored in my life, partly as a Jazz Musician.
The drum part was equally sparsely written. In fact David Jones (more on him soon) wrote his own part in his own language, as I did, so we could understand it better. It is an easy piece to lose your place in and live on hope.