Pity the poor saxophone. Is it a brass or a woodwind? Is it jazz or classical? Can it really produce sounds of unequaled beauty and delicacy as well as smoky, bluesy ones? The answer: yes. Laura Hunter's stylishly superb recital Friday night at the Corcoran Gallery showed that this instrument, usually snubbed by "serious" musicians, can hold its own next to any orchestral woodwind. Hunter's well-rounded program featured commissioned pieces by Karpman, Bolcom and Rogers, as well as works by Ravel, Schubert and others, and was accompanied by the virtuosic Brian Connelly.
Composer and vocalist Laura Karpman's "Matisse and Jazz," based on Henri Matisse's collage with writings, "Jazz," and written for voice, saxophone, percussion and piano, was disappointing because of indistinct vocals by Karpman and music that was unwavering in its "coolness."
Much more interesting were Rodney Rogers' "The Nature of the Whirling Wheel" and William Bolcom's "Lilith." The Rogers was apt in concept with Hunter's line featuring swirling sounds punctuated by sudden loud bursts evoking the idea of the wheel being the symbol of life.
The music of "Lilith" depicted evil, with snarling tones from Hunter coupled with dark rumblings from Connelly, that never abated, even when the music became quietly seductive.
The concert closed with a collection of pieces that ranged from the smooth "Aeolian Song" by Benson to the ragtimey "Saxema" by Rudy Wideoest.