The Nexus Quartet is a miniature “Big Band”. It is a big sound and often evocative when in the jazz mode of the mood of the 30’s, the era of the Speakeasy, of smoke filled rooms, money, danger and illegality. The quartet are four classically trained Saxophonists and there being a dearth of classical compositions for this type of quartet, it often dips into the the oeuvre of the great composers such as Ravel, Debussy and Cesar Franck to play transcriptions of their works.
From the classical genre we heard Debussy’s ”Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune” with Emily Granger at the Harp. Emily is Chicago’s great loss and our great gain. In Chicago she was principal harpist and since coming here has firmly established herself as an outstanding addition to the Australian concert scene. The prelude is one of the most popular in the concert repertoire and its performance was a contrast in tone, timbre and gravitas.
The mellifluous, sonorous voices of the saxophones contrasted the twinkling agile magical sound of the harp, so superbly played by Ms Granger, a lithesome figure with her long blond hair draped over her shoulder as she bent forward to play an enormous golden Harp.
George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” was also a highlight. Gershwin spent time in Paris trying to learn how to write music like Ravel. He went to Nadia Boulanger, the leading teacher of composition of the day. She said she could not teach him. “Why try to be a second rate Ravel when you are a first rate Gershwin” she told him.
We heard an evocative transcription of this piece (by one of the members of the Quartet). It vividly brought us the sights and sounds of a busy exciting Paris interspersed with Gershwin’s longings for home.
An appreciative audience was delighted when the Quartet played as an encore “Summertime”, from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”, and this made for a fine ending to the concert.