Review: American Brass Quintet – Perspectives

Perspectives
American Brass Quintet
Kevin Cobb, Trumpet
Louis Hanzlik, Trumpet
Eric Reed, French Horn
Michael Powell, Trombone
John D. Rojak, Bass Trombone

The American Brass Quintet has been one of the long-standing brass quintets in chamber music. From its beginning in 1960, it has maintained its unique feature of being tuba-less (insert talented bass trombonist). Having produced many recordings throughout its years, the group has been known to commission many new works and tackles some of the most challenging repertoire in brass music. The current group has been together since 2014 with Eric Reed being the newest member.

A fitting title for the album, Perspectives features four works (seven tracks total) that were recent commissions for ABQ. The first piece, “Shine,” is a four-movement work written by Robert Paterson that captures the sonorities of the different brass instruments. With each movement having a “metallic” title, ABQ really demonstrates the beauty and complexities of the instruments while maintaining cohesion.

The second work was written by Jay Greenberg, a 25-year old prodigy composer from Connecticut. His work, “Quintet for Brass,” was written in February 2012 as a result of winning a commission from the ABQ Emerging Composer Commissioning Program. While a one movement piece, this work travels through varying tempos that really showcase contemporary techniques. Pushing the limits for any advanced brass quintet, ABQ certainly pulls off this challenging piece that “will never be played by the amateur or faint-of-heart brass quintet, for it is indeed hard.”1

The third work, “Cadence, Fugue, Fade,” was written by Sebastian Currier. With a similar flow to a Renaissance piece, this piece begins with choral-like sounds flavored with chord changes. Later, it goes through short, driven eighth notes – emphasizing pointed accents that are passed around each instrument, eventually landing on very tasteful chords.

The final piece, “Canticum Hornis Amicorum,” was written by a friend of ABQ, the talented brass writer Eric Ewazen. Scored for nine players, the purpose of this composition is to celebrate the contributions of former members by allowing them to play with the current group. The original meaning of this six-minute work is translated as “A Song Honoring Friends.” Ewazen brings out the strengths of each member in this very listenable piece. While the other works on this album call for specific, dedicated listening, this work allows for the listener to take a breather and simply enjoy a great piece of music written for a high-caliber ensemble.

Overall, this album is a necessity in the current brass chamber music discography. While many brass ensembles are playing the stand repertoire and/or glorified cover songs, the American Brass Quintet continues its traditions of pushing the envelope while keeping to the concept of “original chamber brass music.” Similar to the styles of the Chicago and New York brass quintets, ABQ is still being different from the others – and it continues to work really well! Known for performing new, original and modern compositions, this album shows that ABQ will be continuing that same goal of bringing high quality music to its audience for many years to come.

Notes

1 – Michael Grace, liner notes to Perspectives, American Brass Quintet, Summit Records 692, CD, 2017.

Bibliography

Grace, Michael. Liner notes to Perspectives. American Brass Quintet. Summit Records 692. CD. 2017.

To purchase the album, click here.

To read the liner notes, click here.

To learn more about the American Brass Quintet, click here.

Jeremy Smith

Jeremy Smith is the Founder and Editor of Last Row Music. He studied music at both Grace College and Carnegie Mellon University. Currently, Jeremy is the bass trombonist for Orchestra Iowa and the Huntington Symphony Orchestra. Jeremy also gives online brass lessons to students across the country from his home in Centerburg, Ohio.