Chicago Moves (CD review)

Music of Woodward, Cheetham, Baxter, Garrop, Deemer, Sampson, and Tower. Gaudete Brass. Cedille CDR 900000 136.

If you’ve never heard anything from the Gaudete Brass quintet before, you probably aren’t alone. They formed in 2004, and this Cedille album, Chicago Moves, is I believe only their third CD release. However, judging by the quality of their music, I should think it will be far from their last. The group’s goal is to present “serious brass chamber music at the highest level of excellence” and to encourage a “worldwide appreciation of the art of brass chamber music through live performances, recordings, education, and the creation of new works.” The present album contains six new pieces written expressly for the Gaudete Brass ensemble, all in world-premiere recordings, plus one slightly older work.

The program begins with the brief tune Gaudete by James Woodward (b. 1978). “Gaudete” means “rejoice” in Latin, so that’s what this opening music is all about. It sounds a cheerful, sometimes cheeky note, with some entertaining little harmonies bouncing around in it.

Next is the Sonata for Brass Quintet, a work in three movements by John Chetham (b. 1939). The first movement is sprightly, the second lyrical, and the third big and energetic. This is probably a better piece for demonstrating the prowess of the Gaudete Brass, their playing smooth, sophisticated, spontaneous, enthusiastic, and highly accomplished. The five members of the Gaudete Brass--Bill Baxtresser and Ryan Berndt, trumpets; Julia Filson, horn; Paul Von Hoff, trombone; and Scott Tegge, tuba--seem genuinely to be having fun playing this music together, and their joy is infectious.

After that is A Great Commercial City by Brian Baxter (b. 1985), the title referring, of course, to Chicago, the Gaudete Brass’s home port. Baxter based the piece loosely on the folk song “El-a-noy.” It may remind some listeners of Carl Sandburg’s famous ode to Chicago in spirit if not in tone: “Strong, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders.”

Then, there’s Helios by Stacy Garrop (b. 1969). Helios was the Greek god of the sun, and the music describes his chariot ride across the sky. It begins with a fast and fiery sunrise and ends in a serene, sunset mood. Of all the music on the disc, this one is so well played, it stood out as one of my favorites.

Following that is the simply titled Brass, a three-movement piece by Rob Deemer (b. 1970). It explores the various sounds and textures of the brass instruments, a sort of “Young Person’s Guide to the Brass Quintet.” It’s the most-colorful music on the program, and the Gaudete ensemble make the most of it, offering up a joyous celebration of their own group. The movement “Slide” is particularly playful.

The final premiere is the title tune, Chicago Moves, a four-movement work by David Sampson (b. 1951). This one is also about the city of Chicago, going into more detail describing aspects of the place and its landmarks. Each movement is a kind of individual tone poem.

The album concludes with Copperwave, a Latin American-inspired piece by Joan Tower (b. 1938), which she wrote in 2006. It’s also a first of sorts, though, using a tuba rather than a bass trombone. Ms. Tower writes about it that “copper is a heavy but flexible mineral...and most brass instruments are made of copper. The ideas in this piece move in waves, sometimes heavy ones and at other times lighter--also in circles, turning around on the same notes.” It, too, is playful music, which brings out all the dramatic unity and immaculate playing technique of the Gaudete Brass.

Cedille’s topflight engineer Bill Maylone recorded the Gaudete Brass at Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana in 2012. He miked it at a moderate distance, the sound obtained quite realistic. The stereo spread does not extend across the room, nor should it. Rather, we hear the sound of a well-integrated group of musicians playing in a mildly reverberant acoustic, with a good separation of instruments and no compartmentalization. The various members of the group sound as one, instead of a collection of separate players, which is all for the good. It’s the way any ensemble would sound in a real life, round and resonant. While midrange transparency is not as absolutely pristine as one might find on an audiophile disc, there is more than adequate air and depth to the sound, further promoting the feeling of actually being in the hall at a modest distance from the group.

To hear a brief excerpt from this album, click here:


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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on the Big Jon and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my cell phone. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.

Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa