Four of a Kind, recorded live at the University of Miami, is the fifth album from The Miami Saxophone Quartet. It features a program of originals and a jazz standard or two, all, with the exception of a couple of sections of the opening number, either composed and/or arranged by the group’s alto player, Gary Lindsay. Tenor player Ed Calle, baritone player Mike Brignola and soprano Gary Keller round out the quartet. They are joined by an excellent rhythm section that is given plenty of opportunity to shine with individual solo work, but by and large, as you would expect, this album is all about the reeds.
Of the album’s 10 tracks, there are several that stand out. “Lost (and Found),” a Lindsay original, begins with a smoky sound right out of the soundtrack of some ’40s black-and-white noir classic, before the tenor sax ratchets things up about half way into the nine-minute piece. There is extensive solo work from Keller, pianist Jim Gasior, and Chuck Bergeron on bass.
Dave Brubeck’s “It’s a Raggy Waltz” is described in the liner notes as a “re-composition” Lindsay has arranged to divert “on an extended development of the original.” It begins appropriately with the piano and has solo work for all the saxes. “Sweet Bread,” which closes the set, is a swinging blues number with a bop feel. It ends the concert on a high note with a lot of dynamite sax work from all four reeds.
Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” is always a welcome addition to any jazz album, and Lindsay’s arrangement is stellar. His “Prelude – Invention – Suspension” introduces guest marimba soloist Svet Stoyanov in a composition influenced, we are told, by the music of J. S. Bach. Another guest is trumpeter Brian Lynch, who does some killer work on the ballad “Early Autumn.” The album opens, perhaps surprisingly, with an arrangement of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” written, composer Ed Calle explains, to illustrate an academic address for a conference on music and mathematics, a subject unfortunately above my pay grade.
Bach. Mathematics—these are serious musicians. Their music is intelligent, but intelligent doesn’t mean sterile. It doesn’t mean stuffy. They can wail with the best of them.