The Washington Post, Style, Thursday September 13, 2007

 

Charley Gerard

 

One of the pleasures of alto saxophonist Charley Gerard's recital on Tuesday (hosted by Washington Musica Viva at the Ratner Museum) was hearing mid-20th-century classical composers letting their hair down and embracing popular musical forms. The sultry playfulness of Latin dance partnered unusually well with Jean Francaix's breezy boulevard wit in "Cinq Danses Exotiques." Ditto his fellow Frenchman Darius Milhaud's hip-swaying "Danse."

 

The bluff humor in Czech-born Erwin Schulhoff's jazz-infused "Hot-Sonate" would not have been amiss accompanying a Laurel and Hardy comedy short. And if Astor Piazzolla looked at music from the other end of the telescope -- a popular composer raising the tango to the seriousness and complexity of classical chamber music -- the intricate workings and virtuosic riffs in his "Tango-Etudes" never overshadowed the feverish compulsion of its dance-hall rhythms.

 

Gerard's playing displayed the chops and range to embrace the mellow, Gallic phrases of the Francaix, as well as the grittier wailing asked for in parts of the Schulhoff. His lived-in feeling for this material was matched by pianist Carl Banner's stylish, rhythmically scrupulous keyboard work. Two compositions by Gerard -- a wacky cocktail of Dvorak, Art Tatum and Suzuki violin exercises called "Tatumesque," and a melding of Carole King and "The Rite of Spring" titled "Will You Love My Earth Kiss Tomorrow" -- revealed humor and crossover composing skill right in line with the earlier generation of composers on the program.

 

-- Joe Banno