Oasis Quartet
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Oasis Quartet

Indianola, Iowa, United States | INDIE

Indianola, Iowa, United States | INDIE
Band Classical Acoustic




"Arcane Candy Review of Oasis Quartet CD"

...the Oasis Quartet–the group and the album–offers up a generous serving of sinuous saxophone for lovers of clean tones. - Arcane Candy

"Fanfare Review of Oasis Quartet CD"

GLASS String Quartet No. 3, “Mishima”. ESCAICH Le Bal. GOTKOVSKY Saxophone Quartet • Oasis Sax Qrt ? INNOVA 744 (55:44)

The Oasis Quartet—Nathan Nabb, James Bunte, David Camwell, and James Romain, hailing primarily from Iowa—combine a wide variety of symphonic, chamber and solo performance experience, both classical and jazz. Since their formation in 2005, they have molded that diversity into a most impressive ensemble, their performances meticulous, vital, responsive to nuance, and tonally rich. Their selection of repertoire for their first CD presents a satisfying program of tonally conservative and emotionally engaging contemporary compositions.
Philip Glass’ acknowledged influences include Bach and Mozart—a legacy of his study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger—Indian classical artists Ravi Shankar and Alla Rakha, and experimental film and theater. All of those come together in his score for Paul Schrader's 1985 film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, a stylized exploration of the life of brilliant and disturbed neo-samurai Japanese author Yukio Mishima. The score incorporates by design the String Quartet No. 3; haunting music, classical in its emphasis on order and restraint. The six movements—all but the second—take their titles from the flashback scenes of Mishima’s life that they accompany. The steady, flowing execution of the repetitive figures, written for and originally recorded by the Kronos Quartet, is hard enough for string players to achieve. For wind players it is even more daunting, which makes the Oasis Quartet’s precision—even passagework, uniformity of tone, seamless line, and unfailing balance and intonation—most impressive. While soprano saxophonist Nabb’s arrangement would not be a replacement for the original version for most listeners—the strings easily create an inward quality that the brassier saxophone is ill-equipped to emulate—it is compelling in its own right and the more articulated quality of the wind instruments is quite effective in the opening 1957: Award Montage and the ebullient Grandma and Kimitake. A more measured last movement could convey the ultimate pathos more tellingly—the Kronos Quartet takes over three minutes to the Oasis’ less than two and-one-half—but that is the only real quibble.
French composer Thierry Escaich, organist of Durufle’s St-Etienne-du-Mont in Paris, describes his Le Bal as “a contemporary reinvention of J.S. Bach’s style” and a “modern conception of a dance suite.” Without one reading the notes, it seems unlikely that description of the work would have suggested itself. Dance rhythms are certainly core to the work, beginning with the percussive baritone sax slap tongue under the anxious opening theme. There are waltzes and tangos, and a wildly manic ending built on the opening motif, but it is more unsettled narrative than light diversion; emotionally closer to Ravel’s cataclysmic La Valse than any baroque suite. With the rock and jazz influences, and occasional faux electronic sounds, this could be a score for a suspenseful urban-angst ballet. Escaich is well known as an improviser at the organ, and there is a marvelous improvisatory feel to this eclectic but fully integrated work, as well as an impressive exploitation of the expressive capabilities of the saxophone ensemble. It is an exciting work and a virtuoso challenge well met by the Oasis four.
Another French composer, Ida Gotkovsky, like Glass a student of Boulanger, provides the last and arguably most challenging work on a CD of challenging works; for the quartet that is, not the listener. Her Saxophone Quartet is, in fact, a work of somewhat old-fashioned charm and beauty: alternately delicate and humorous, and startling in the technical demands it places on the players. In an earlier review I preferred the Saxofon Concentus recording for its “understatement and exquisite balance.” That Simax recording is still available, and remains the first choice, though Oasis would still have garnered a warm recommendation if it wasn’t for the sad omission of the energetic Saltarello that stands as contrast between two central slow movements. It is a shame, as there is mystery, poignancy, and in the well-known finale, dexterity that, while not the equal of the extraordinary Norwegians, is still quite remarkable.
According to a 2009 Sax on the Web forum entry by baritone sax member James Romain, the recording of the Mishima Quartet was intended for Glass’ own Orange Mountain Records label. I am not sure what happened to that project, but I am pleased that Innova picked it up. The recording is rather close-up, which is most noticeable in the Gotkovsky where the lower dynamic reveals breathing and key clicks. Still, there is ambience enough to suggest a space around the players, and the immediacy is an asset in the more extrovert works. Overall, a most desirable CD. The Saxofon Concentus must be heard for the Gotkovsky quartet, but don’t let that keep you away from this fine release. Ronald E. Grames
- Fanfare Magazine

"Saxophone Journal Feature of Oasis Quartet"

...The Oasis Quartet's performance is brilliant, strong and exciting...The playing is just simply lovely, with dead-on tuning, tasteful and elegant articulation and stunning virtuosity. - Sue Fancher, for Saxophone Journal. - Saxophone Journal


Oasis Quartet eponymous CD OASIS QUARTET on the Innova label, #744.



The Oasis Quartet has emerged out of a shared goal of interpreting dynamic repertoire at the highest level. In the tradition of fine chamber ensembles, Oasis Quartet's nuanced performances of string and wind arrangements are as fresh, authentic and arresting as their interpretations of original works for saxophone. Founded in 2006, the ensemble has received rave reviews of its live performances as well as for its innovative and creative clinic and concert programming.

The members of Oasis—Nathan Nabb, James Bunte, Dave Camwell, and James Romain—are each highly regarded concert artists in their own right, appearing regionally, nationally, and internationally as chamber musicians, clinicians, orchestral musicians, solo recitalists and adjudicators. They can be heard on the Teal Creek, Centaur, Amp Recordings, and Mark Custom labels, and in performances with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as a number of regional orchestras.

As an ensemble, Oasis is dedicated to the exploration, preparation and presentation of important contemporary works for saxophone quartet, while retaining a strong foundation in standard and transcribed repertoire. The diverse and wide-ranging interests of its members—including jazz performance and history, contemporary techniques and notation, ethnomusicology, and regular contributions to scholarly and trade journals—contribute a broad array of influences that lend a unique depth and perspective to Oasis Quartet performances.