Donna Lee Saxophone Quartet: Four To Go

The Croatia-based Donna Lee Saxophone Quartet (DLSQ) was formed in 1999 by altoists Zdenko Ivanuši? and Andrej Henigman, and has had the same personnel since 2001. While they have been known to play charts of their predecessors the World Saxophone Quartet and the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet, over time they have developed their own distinctive identity and sound.

On this follow-up to their first CD, Four Odd, it becomes apparent that baritonist Suša's role is just as important to the DLSQ's overall success as were those of Hamiet Bluiett and Jim Hartog, respectively, to the aforementioned a cappella sax quartets – providing essential basslines and rhythms. Ivanuši? is the DLSQ's strongest soloist and main composer, a vibrant player heard at his best on his own infectious "Four to Go." Suša's winding bassline leads to Ivanuši?'s articulation of the prancing theme. A catchy vamp by the two altos and tenor serves as the bridge. Ivanuši?'s stop-and-start solo leaves space for an accompanying line by the other saxophonists to take the forefront, as his velvety tone accentuates his intricate and lively post-bop runs. After Ivanuši? revisits the theme, with the contrapuntal backing of his bandmates, the vamp/bridge creates a perfect resolution. There is an easeful mastery at work here that simply must be heard.

September 29, 2008 · 0 comments


Zdenko Ivanuši?: Four Odd

The 41-year-old Zdenko Ivanuši? is based in Zagreb, Croatia, and is equally proficient on alto, tenor and soprano saxes, besides being an excellent composer. He heads the Donna Lee Saxophone Quartet, was lead alto for the HGM Jazz Orchestra Zagreb, and has performed with several symphony and theatre orchestras located in Croatia. Zivaldo is his own label, for which he has recorded two CDs by the Donna Lee Saxophone Quartet and Lost in HTML with his own small group. Judging from this release, Ivanuši? appears comfortable performing all across the wide spectrum of jazz, be it mainstream, hard bop, progressive, funk or fusion – all styles handled with great competence and flair.

"Four Odd" allows him to stretch out impressively on alto. A loping waltz-like bassline and martial drum rhythm sets up Ivanuši?'s playing of the ethereal, mystical-sounding theme. His somewhat dry timbre is remindful of Greg Osby and/or Steve Coleman. He develops his absorbing solo at a deliberate pace to start, but his singing lines gradually accelerate and are soon interspersed with passionate, dissonant cries, and he concludes his narrative with some well-crafted circular phrases. Dedi?, who had provided the altoist with assured and sympathetic backing, now creates an inventive solo that also begins reflectively, before sonorous chords jumpstart his more heated concluding segment. After Ivanuši? repeats the theme, he gives way to Domiter, who takes the piece out with deft bass-drum figures and tasteful, polished stick work.

July 22, 2008 · 0 comments


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