CD Review: HD Duo | Australian Thais

by | Aug 25, 2021 | Ambassador thoughts, CD/Recording, Composer, Piano, Saxophone

HD DUO

Michael Duke – saxophones
David Howie – piano

New Music for Saxophone and Piano

When approaching this new CD there was one thing for sure I knew and that was that the performances would be wonderful. With two musicians possessing the skills and reputations of Michael Duke and David Howie the listener and indeed the composers could be confident of superb playing and a devotion to the music.

A compilation of works from Australia and Thailand for just saxophone and piano might seem a little restrictive for those outside the saxophone world but Australian Thais offers up intriguing music from beginning to end. I knew the music of the Australian composers so I was particularly interested to hear music from a place that although is a near neighbour has not had a major profile in Australia.

Three Spirits of ASEAN by Narongrit Dhamabutra showed itself to be a most dramatic work inhabiting a varied soundworld that referenced music of Europe and from the Asian region. Starting with brooding chords and quasi-arabesques from the piano, Dhamabutra introduces a saxophone line that seems to be initially disconnected to the piano writing but ultimately convinces that it is the way of things. The next movement after declaiming its arrival becomes quite serene before the drama returns, whilst the third movement could easily be a soundtrack for an American cartoon – zipping here and there at breakneck speed.

The writing in Serenity Flux from Saksri Pang Vongtaradon again makes me think of European music from the late 20th century whilst having a distinctive jazz-like inspired melodic line and pitch bending motivs.

Isaan by Denny Euprasert is the most romantic work on this CD and will surely be played on radio stations. Again jazz styles come across through the work juxtaposed with hints of minimalism. Mellifluous alto playing by Duke is balanced by Howie’s graceful lines.

I deliberately did not read the program notes until I had listened to the CD three times as I did not want to be influenced by knowledge of the composers. I was not surprised on reading the excellent accompanying booklet that all three Thai composers had studied in the USA and that two were involved with jazz music. The future of music from Thailand looks to be in great hands.

The Australian works by Matthew Orlovich, Gerard Brophy and Tim Dargaville are highly accessible works that give much scope to the performers to create a multitude of colours.

As the HD DUO Michael Duke and David Howie do a great service to the music they perform and raise the profile of music for saxophone and piano. This will surely be a popular CD and warrants attention. I hope that soon they are able to perform the works in concerts around Australia. Now that would be a treat.

The CD is available from calasignum.com here

Photo: Keith Saunders photography

Track List

‘Hurly Burly’ for soprano saxophone and piano. Matthew Orlovich
‘Dervish’ for alto saxophone and piano. Gerard Brophy
‘Water has no equal’ for soprano saxophone and piano. Tim Dargaville
‘Three Spirits of ASEAN’ for alto saxophone and piano. Narongrit Dhamabutra
1. The Chant of Rattanatri
2. Gala the beast
3. Kakula
‘Serenity Flux’ for tenor saxophone and piano. Saksri Pang Vongtaradon
‘Isaan’ for alto saxophone and piano. Denny J. Euprasert

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