The Commission Project

American Saxophone Quartet


The third ASQ disc led by New York Philharmonic principal Albert Regni features distinguished guest clarinetists: Larry Combs (principal, Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Ron Odrich (Gerry Mulligan), and the incomparable Paquito D’Rivera. This date contains newly commissioned pieces by Mike Holober, Gabriel Senanes, Bernard Hoffer, and Franco and Paquito D’Rivera, with the proceeds to benefit The Commission Project, a music education nonprofit.

"My three favorite clarinet players on one CD." -- Eddie Daniels


Views From A Train by Michael Holober, featuring Larry Combs, clarinet
01 Freely (5:19)
02 High-Spirited (7:17)
03 Chorale (4:18)
04 Presto (5:38)

Cubamericargie Quintet by Gabriel Senanes, featuring Paquito D'Rivera, clarinet
05 Cañas de Azúcar (Sugar Reeds) (6:08)
06 Zamba Sombría (Somber Zamba) (3:54)
07 Mi Longa Alegría (My Long Allegro) (4:52)

Quasi An Arabesque by Paquito and Franco D'Rivera, featuring Paquito D'Rivera, clarinet
08 Quasi An Arabesque (12:15)

The Toy Chest by Bernard Hoffer, featuring Ron Odrich, clarinet
09 Jumping Jacks (4:02)
10 Barbie and Ken (5:25)
11 T. Rex (4:38)
12 Vincent (4:54)
13 Trains (3:58)


Albert REGNI, soprano saxophone

David DEMPSEY, alto saxophone
David CARROLL, tenor saxophone
Lino GOMEZ, baritone saxophone

Larry COMBS, clarinet (trks 1-4)
Paquito D'RIVERA, clarinet (trks 5-8)
Ron ODRICH, clarinet (trks 9-13)


How sweet to hear three of my longtime friends and favorite clarinet players sharing their artistry on one CD.

Ned CormanThe Commission Project and Director Ned Corman brought together the American Saxophone Quartet and three great clarinetists through the commissioning of four new compositions. This wonderful CD truly shows not only the talent of three clarinet soloists, but also the beauty of this quartet’s sound.

Larry CombsLarry Combs, principal clarinetist in the Chicago Symphony for many years and a very fine jazz player, demonstrates a certain ease of playing highlighted by a beautiful sound, from the highs to the lows of the clarinet. A classical clarinetist with jazz roots, Combs plays with a freedom of expression unique in the orchestral world.

Paquito D'RiveraPaquito D’Rivera appears here as a very fine composer and clarinetist. His clarinet playing sings and swings with beautiful articulation. His cadenzas are fast and furious as well as lyrical, the magnificent product of his Cuban roots.

Ron OdrichRon Odrich shines in a third way. His beautiful sound is heard at the beginning of Barbie and Ken in an unaccompanied improvisation that fits its musical context perfectly. Throughout, Ron sails over the saxes like a bird in flight, sometimes flying ahead of the flock, only to return.

A very imaginative and diverse composition, Bernie Hoffer’s The Toy Chest shows the potential of this ensemble tonally. Check out Trains. When I was doing studio work in New York, Bernie was respected as a most talented and flexible composer. It is a pleasure to hear his music today. In The Toy Chest, he pulls the saxophone quartet and clarinet in every direction possible, never fixing them in one spot, and always surprising the listener.

From the opening cut of the CD, Views From A Train, to the final track, Trains, I had a “trains-n-dental” experience. I loved it! The open secret is that Ron is also the best periodontist in the world.

-- Eddie Daniels, February 2001


VIEWS FROM A TRAIN Travel is the primary inspiration for my compositions. When traveling, each trip can become a yardstick for measuring one’s life or the passage of time. Rather than what one might see looking out of a train window, these “Views” are musical reflections on the changing moods experienced during a trip. For me, train travel seems especially relevant to exploring the question of whether it’s the journey or the destination.

The opening movement, Freely, was conceived without meter, and each note is meant to be an improvised reaction to the previous note. This “dialogue” resolves as the saxophones “agree” by creating a harmonic cushion for the clarinet to introduce itself. The long clarinet cadenza is improvisatory in nature, using harmonic language from folk music and melodic material from the blues. Interspersed are hymn-like passages that recur throughout the work. The clarinet then segues into the second movement, entitled High-Spirited. This is the most jazz-influenced movement, orchestrated so that the melodic and accompanying roles are clearly defined, while jazz lines, articulations, and rhythms are evident. There is extensive polymetric material for which two different meters are notated. At the closing, there are two simultaneous tempos, dissolving into a fading vamp that is best described as “clickety-clack.” Chorale is given its reflective quality by a melancholy twist on folk harmony, while contrapuntal passages are played by different duo pairings. The final movement, Presto, is a highly virtuostic and rhythmic romp based on an ever-changing five note cell. The hymn-like sections return, and the clarinet recalls its earlier cadenza with brief solo statements. We hear one last clarinet solo, one last hymn, and then a familiar motif disappears into the distance.

— Mike Holober

CUBAMERICARGIE QUINTET Its title derived from Cuba + America + Argie (Argentine), Cubamericargie was commissioned for the American Saxophone Quartet in the middle of a dinner at Paquito D’Rivera’s home in September 1999. To be exact, it was while everyone was enjoying a plate of frijoles, those delicious Cuban beams as prepared by Paquito’s wife and mother. The commissioners were actually Paquito, the ASQ and later, The Commission Project. The result is a three-movement integral piece, dedicated to and premiered by the ASQ and the clarinet of Mr. D’Rivera at the Merkin Concert Hall in December 1999.

The composition goes from the tango abstract feeling of the first movement, Cañas de azúcar (Sugar Reeds), passes through the quiet atmosphere of an Argentinean zamba Zamba Sombría (Somber Zamba) and finally arrives to a funny milonga Mi Longa Alegría (My Long Allegro) with an amazing cadenza by Paquito.

— Gabriel Senanes

QUASI AN ARABESQUE This project started for me very interestingly. It was a Tuesday morning at 2 AM, and I was already well deep into my fourth dream of the night when the phone started ringing. It was my father, and by his tone I knew he had an idea. He started telling me that he was working on a piece that was a commission from the American Saxophone Quartet and The Commission Project. The piece, he said, would be for the quartet with him on clarinet. He went on then and told me that he thought it would be a great idea to share the commission and write the piece together. The idea gave me both much excitement and apprehension. After all, the responsibility of writing for said ensemble is not to be lightly taken. At first, I wasn’t sure how it was to be written; if the piece was to be in movements or with the sections elided. I was at first very afraid because to write one piece in collaboration, differences in writing style, treatment and approach to the overall form can pose problems. One has to be very careful in the way one decides to treat and develop thematic material since one is working with another person’s ideas. Shaping it cohesively without disturbing the general form and intent of the work is a considerable challenge.

The next morning I went to his home and we began mapping the piece. He had of course already begun and showed me what he had done and how we could collaborate. That afternoon I started working on my part, and weeks later the composition took its final shape. The process was like a two-person assembly line, where neither of us would know what we were building until it was finished. And at the end, it was rewarding.

— Franco D’Rivera

THE TOY CHEST Up in the attic is an old wooden chest, or maybe a steamer trunk. It is filled with toys that haven’t seen sunlight in many years. As we lift the lid and pull out some of our old favorites they bring back memories and set our imaginations to wander. The memories of those toys set this music in motion.

We first see a couple of Jumping Jacks: the old wooden stick figures that lumped and clattered when the strings were pulled. Then there’s a Barbie and a Ken: we imagine them going to a prom together in their finery. Next is the old plastic T-Rex, menacing and dangerous as ever. How many times did we try to scare our little sisters with them, or have them threaten to eat their dolls! We dig in, and at the bottom there is Vincent, the benevolent teddy bear, scruffy as ever, who went with us everywhere, even to the doctor, or to the big bad barber. Finally there’s an old train set, a steam engine, a couple of freight cars, and, of course, a red caboose. Remember running it around the Christmas tree, trying to see how fast we could make it go without knocking it off the track. So many memories as we rummage through the old Toy Chest!

— Bernard Hoffer


"This is a wonderful CD featuring four pieces for saxophone quartet with clarinet… may not be jazz in the strictest sense, but it is terrific, and it'll make up for the deficiency of polyphony in most jazz libraries. Go buy it."
— Planet Jazz , 2003

three stars"…contemporary classical forms and harmonies cross-pollinate with jazz rhythmic concepts and improvised passages. Each composer (and clarinetist) approaches this fusion in his own way, admirably free of self-conscious stylistic constraints…"
— All Music Guide, 2002

"The Commission Project by the American Saxophone Quartet delivers an abundance of musical wealth that will more than likely satisfy… All musicians give exemplary performances, which is only to be expected by a work of this caliber… the music is structured but also free flowing, challenging and accessible, disciplined and fun."
— All About Jazz, May 2002

"…the four compositions featured here give no evidence of feeling the burden [depicted on the cover], instead frolicking through jazz, classical and Latin styles fluently and charmingly. It’s as if you signed up for hard labor and found yourself picking wildflowers… All four works are well-crafted and appealing, and deserve the wider circulation they’re getting. With this task successfully completed, perhaps someone at The Commission Project can finally take a load off."
— JazzTimes, May 2002