In the spirit of the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet and the
legendary, trailblazing World Saxophone Quartet,
The South Florida-based New Vision Sax Ensemble is a woodwind answer to the classical string quartet; unlike its esteemed predecessors,
the New Vision Sax Ensemble—at least on this, its first album—offers no original material but rather focuses on jazz and classic pop and show evergreens.
The musicians—Diron Holloway (soprano, clarinet and alto sax), James Lockhart (alto sax), Jason Hainsworth (tenor sax), group founder Melton R. Mustafa (baritone sax)—are all professional music educators as well. To many that would mean they mostly color within the lines, but in fact their music making is anything but a sterile, academic exercise.
You wouldn’t expect four saxes to equal, say, the wild-ass baroque ride given Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia” by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1957, but the New Vision Sax Ensemble’s five-and-a-half-minute interpretation is a medium-cool delight in its own right. Mustafa’s baritone holds down the famous bass part with authority, as the conversation between the tenor and the altos becomes more heated, producing scintillating textures of soft and light, even capturing some of the freewheeling energy of Blakey’s version while paying homage to Dizzy’s original.
Purists may be more appeased by the quartet’s version of Monk’s “‘Round Midnight,” with soothing ensemble passages colored by melancholy. The horns’ restraint here has the effect of summoning both loneliness and sensual
longing—you have to figure Monk would approve.