The PRISM Quartet pays homage to William Albright (1944-1998) in their latest innova release. This remarkable disc of Albright’s principal works for saxophone offers powerful testimony to the full range of his personality and his fascination with the expressive power of the instrument. A composer whose works move from sublime laments to raucous jazz, Albright created an extensive body of saxophone repertoire that is at once virtuosic, soulful, and daringly eclectic. His deep affinity for the instrument lasted throughout his career, until a long struggle with alcoholism led to his untimely death at the age of 53. Albright exerted a profound influence on the artistic development of the PRISM Quartet during the ensemble’s formative years at the University of Michigan in the 1980s, inspiring them to champion new music with over 100 commissions by many of the nation’s most celebrated composers.
The disc features "Fantasy Etudes for saxophone quartet," commissioned by PRISM in 1992, which Albright once described as "intended to turn the sax on its side" with undertones of Highland bagpipes, steam engines, Victorian pump organs, and the big band sounds of 1950s television police dramas; "Sonata for alto saxophone and piano," a masterful cornerstone of the saxophone repertoire, moving between blistering energy, abandon, and profound sadness; "Pit Band for alto sax, bass clarinet and piano," a tongue-in-cheek parody of an evening’s worth of theatre music, digested and compressed to a few minutes; "Doo-Dah for three alto saxophones," Albright’s first saxophone work, which melds three saxophones into one lush timbre, with roots in American popular song, Southern gospel music, blues, and free jazz.; and "Heater: Saga for alto saxophone and symphony band." Taking its name from the gangster era slang term for a machine gun, "Heater" reflects Albright’s signature combination of contemporary harmonic language infused with jazz idioms of the 1920s and 30s.