Jonathan Hulting-Cohen, saxophones (on all tracks)
I Choose You for two alto saxophones
with Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto sax
1 I Opening and Refrain 1:29
2 II 1:54
3 III 0:56
4 IV 3:40
5 V 2:08
6 VI 2:52
7 Eric Wubbels 12:09
Axamer Folio for saxophone and drum set
Dennis Sullivan, drum set
8 Annica Socolofsky 8:49
Rise for alto saxophone and bowed piano
Nicholas Shaneyfelt, piano
9 Stephen J. Rush 8:03
Flying Fancy for solo soprano saxophone
10 Ingrid Arauco 5:26
Ruby for solo alto saxophone
11 Salvatore Macchia 12:14
Spira B for alto saxophone and live electronics
12 Joan Tower 6:52
Second Flight for solo alto saxophone
13 Felipe Salles 3:43
Uirapuru for soprano saxophone and live electronics
— 70:17 —
In 2017, I began a project grounded in questions about the definitions, edges and aesthetic possibilities of classical music. More specifically, I wanted to play between classical music and related genres, drawing on the saxophone’s wide range of sounds and techniques to create hybrid musical forms. Through a series of commissions, I collaborated with eight composers whose styles and compositions realize these interests. Touring these works for three years in a recital called Timbreline, I came to know the questions and the pieces differently. I worked closely with the composers on finessing my interpretations, as well as score revisions, to illuminate the edges of timbre, genre, and aesthetic. These principles carried over to conversations with sound engineers throughout the recording and post-production processes. The result is Second Flight.
As I listen to Second Flight through the driving interest of timbre, genre, and aesthetic that motivate it, I hear and recognize the rich history and exciting potential of the saxophone as a classical instrument. As institutions of classical music face financial and social pressure to respond to cultural consciousness, the saxophone is uniquely positioned to contribute to change. The saxophone’s range of colors can deftly signal multiple genres, and while respect for lineage often entails performing just one at a time, there is artistic and cultural value to the spaces in between. These spaces can be heard on this album, spaces between classical and jazz, classical and folk, classical and the vast, encompassing world of “new music.” Together, these works respond to and push at the boundaries of classical music. Each of the composers speak to their processes and contributions in the notes following.
For me, in addition to the sounds and aesthetics of classical music and the saxophone, this compilation of pieces speaks deeply to themes and meanings of flight, of movement and soaring. Flight is reflected in the sounds and colors of the pieces, in their collective ranges of emotions and techniques. And also, in the titles and the meanings I make from and bring to them. To me, the energy of flight feels as urgent, dangerous, and effortful as it does graceful, powerful, and expansive. I hear these qualities in the works on this album, and in the performances of my extraordinary collaborators. I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside them, to take risks, to play in novel and varied musical spaces, and for the tremendous personal and artistic growth that resulted from these collaborations.
For Kimberlee Pérez.
I Choose You
This piece was inspired by my son’s current obsession with Pokémon. There are 18 total official types of Pokémon in categories such as Fire, Water, Grass, Electric, Psychic, Ghost, etc. They are pitted against each other to do “battle” in myriad combinations each possessing their own special powers. There have long been divisions between jazz and classical saxophone ideologies and practice. Many of my inspirations come from mixing approaches and techniques from both. In meeting Jonathan Hulting-Cohen several years ago, I realized that this hybrid base of operation was becoming more common with younger generations on both sides of the fence. While there is much composed material in this piece, it serves really to inspire improvised battles
using our respective powers. It’s important to note that while there is a winner, no Pokémon are permanently injured and certainly not killed. In fact, the entire Pokémon franchise encourages teamwork, discipline, compassion, and perseverance.
“I Choose You!” is what a Pokémon trainer shouts when he is summoning his pocket monster to battle. — Rudresh Mahanthappa
Axamer Folio is a modular network of 24 pieces for saxophone
and drumset, with no pre-set order, form, or duration.
The individual pieces (which include duos, solos, and duos that can be separated and combined with other pieces) project a small number of musical objects in an extremely diverse range of performative and notational contexts, from rigorously specified to indeterminate, graphic, and text scores; from tightly synchronized duo music to phasing loops, list structures, and free improvisation. The result is a kind of self-similar labyrinth of possibilities, within which the performers trace a path.
Axamer Folio is dedicated to Anthony Braxton and Mathias Spahlinger. — Eric Wubbels
Rise explores the numerous resonances and timbres of the alto saxophone in the way that a vocalist explores the nuanced vocal qualities and expressive micro-variations in sound color at the far reaches of their own voice. The piano serves to magnify these subtle color shifts by acting as a resonator for the saxophone. Much like the sympathetic strings on a Norwegian hardanger fiddle create a spectral sound bed for the fiddle, the pianist uses rosined bow hair to bow the strings of their instrument to timbrally support and conflict with the saxophone's vocal lines. — Annika Socolofsky
I wrote Flying Fancy in a whirlwind — in a week — directly after coming back from India in 2017. It was, more or less, on a dare, for Jonathan Hulting-Cohen, who had requested a solo soprano saxophone piece. I was interested in pushing the boundaries of playability in regard to speed and altissimo possibilities — as I understood them. It was composed almost exclusively on Melodica — so the breathing remained “honest.” Then I Skyped Jonathan and we reviewed passages to make sure they were playable. A few years later, we talked extensively about the piece, doing a modest theoretical analysis of the work – and discovered that it was in Saraswati Raga (A–B–D#–E–F#–G–A), despite being what some would call “dissonant.” So be it. The piece, as my life, is dedicated to her (Saraswati). More formally, the piece is dedicated to my dear friend, Jonathan. — Stephen Rush
Ruby was inspired by a conversation I had with Jonathan about the wonderful breadth of tonal color that can be achieved on the saxophone, even without using any extended techniques. Accordingly, my piece evokes a variety of timbres over the range of the instrument, from quietly mellow to vividly intense. The piece is marked "Freely and dramatically, quasi cadenza” and has the quality of a recitativo with one section moving fluidly into the next. Along the way, short, boldly etched musical ideas recur in various contexts and moods. Above all, Ruby is a celebration of Jonathan's virtuosity and the obvious delight he takes in bringing new music to life. My title could refer to a person of great flair and passion or to the flickering brilliance of the red gemstone; that is left for the listener to ponder! — Ingrid Arauco
Spira B (for alto saxophone and live electronics, 2013) was written for Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and is one of a series of pieces I have composed for a variety of solo instruments and live electronics. There are two basic ideas around which the piece is based and both are very simple. The first is the endless possibilities offered by the compositional use of canonic imitation, and the inherent ability of imitation to create not only tension but also release, while aiding in the creation of a meaningful musical line. The second is the equally unlimited potential for the transformation of that musical line by the use of live electronics. Spira B like the other pieces I have composed in the genre is both technically and musically challenging. The instrumental line is completely written out and features wide melodic leaps, rhythmically charged moments and virtuosic control of extreme registers. It also requires from the soloist great concentration and stamina. The live electronic part is the result of predetermined “captures” or recordings of selected parts of the actual performance and then playing them back in their original form or in versions varied, one again, by predetermined electronic manipulation. The technical demands of the work are obvious, but the musical ones are of more critical importance. Namely the ability to listen to yourself deeply and to engage with a musical shadow of yourself, a musical entity which ended a moment ago or perhaps minutes ago, but which has now returned, often in a different guise, and forces you not only to pay attention to it, but to interact, confront it, and respond to it as well. It is the quality of this interaction that Spira (which means spiral) is ultimately about. — Salvatore Macchia
I followed some of the imagery of flying from Wings — my clarinet solo from 1981 — in Second Flight (which also includes a snippet of music from that earlier work). To me, the saxophone matches the power of the clarinet in its ability to do so many different things — its slow-to-fast speeds, soft-to-loud dynamics, short-to-long notes, and huge register — which gives it a great musical expressive flexibility. This all inspired me — again — to think of something powerful that flies high and wide above a large landscape. — Joan Tower
Uirapuru, a composition for solo soprano saxophone, sound design file, pre-recorded and live electronics, was inspired by the Brazilian bird of the same name. The musicality of birds have always attracted me, and have been present in different ways in some of my orchestral works. With Uirapuru I have taken a leap into a new compositional process all together. I have taken a recording of the bird, done in its natural habitat, as the basis to create a sound design file that explores the melodic and rhythmic elements of its call, using repetition and displacement. The sound design file is then used as the basis to write a small chamber piece that is realized virtually with electronic sounds and sound effects. The piece is written around the two main elements: the bird call sound design file and its melodic counterpart, the soprano saxophone solo part. After all the electronic elements are put in place, the soprano saxophone live sound is also enhanced by pre-programed electronic effects that are processed live during the performance. — Felipe Salles
Saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen’s performances as soloist and chamber musician have been considered “impressive” with “exceptional facility” (Schenectady Daily Gazette), and “fun to watch” (Oregon Arts Watch). He made his concerto debut with the Philadelphia Classical Symphony in 2011. Subsequent performances include concerti with the Adrian Symphony Orchestra (MI) and Sequoia Symphony Orchestra (CA), Chamber Music Northwest, Carnegie Hall, and the Virtuosi Concert Series in Winnipeg, Canada. He is co-founder of The Moanin’ Frogs saxophone sextet and the saxophone and harp duo Admiral Launch, whose debut records appeared on Teal Creek and Albany. His interdisciplinary work includes dance, film and performance art collaborations. Jonathan trained at the University of Michigan under Donald Sinta and is currently Assistant Professor of Saxophone at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a Conn-Selmer and D’Addario Woodwinds Artist.
I Choose You was recorded by Andrés Villalta on June 15th, 2018, at Princeton University’s Taplan Auditorium, Princeton, NJ. Produced by Rudresh Mahanthappa.
Ruby was recorded by Fred Bashour on June 20th, 2018, at Mount Holyoke College’s Pratt Hall, South Hadley, MA. Produced by Ingrid Arauco.
Uirapuru and Flying Fancy were recorded by Matt Hayes on July 22nd, 2019, at Wellspring Sound Studios, Acton, MA. Produced by Felipe Salles and Stephen Rush.
Spira B was recorded by Zach Herchen on August 2nd, 2019, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Bezanson Recital Hall, Amherst, MA. Produced by Salvatore Macchia.
Axamer Folio was recorded by Zach Herchen on December 21st, 2019, at the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall, Garden City, NY. Produced by Eric Wubbels.
Second Flight was recorded by Zach Herchen on February 18th, 2020, at the Thurnauer School of Music’s Eric Brown Theater, Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, Tenafly, NJ. Produced by Zach Herchen.
Executive Producer: Jonathan Hulting-Cohen
Mastering Engineer: Piper Payne of Infrasonic Sound
Design: Philip Blackburn
Portrait: Jeremiah Williams
Cover Photograph: “Entrx” from the Detalles Arquitectónicos 2017 series, Adela C. Licona.
With special thanks to Colleen Wetzel, Lisa Liebowitz, Jennifer Marion, Ed Matthew, Philip Blackburn, Jazer Giles, Jason Warriner, and most of all, to Kimberlee Pérez.
This project was completed with support from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Faculty Research Grant/Healey Endowment Grant.
innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
Philip Blackburn, director, design
Chris Campbell, operations director
Tim Igel, publicist