When it comes to the soprano saxophone, some of us might think right off the bat of New Orleans legend Sidney Bechet, which is good. But most think of Kenny G, which is not so good. When it comes to women who play the saxophone, we might think of Candy Dulfer, who is definitely a good player. However, she has a tendency to be ruthlessly commercial and suave, and perhaps that's also not so good. With Australian Amy Dickson we discover a female soprano saxophonist who is offering something far different from either of these mixed options; her main focus is with classical literature, and Dickson has a luscious, creamy tone that sounds somewhere between a clarinet and a flute, reflecting the instrument in the light of the intentions of its creator, Adolphe Sax; even Bechet would have found it tough to beat that action.
Sony has packaged this album like a 1980s disc of music to snog by, but the saxophonist Amy Dickson’s new release is an intriguing and entirely serious collection of recent works by Australian composers, works she did much to create. The title work, premiered by Dickson in 2012, is a late score by Peter Sculthorpe. The first movement is sun drenched and full of yearning, the saxophone soaring over a teeming orchestra; the second is a more unsettled expression of homesickness. Ross Edwards’s concerto entitled the Full Moon Dances – recorded, unlike the rest, live in concert – is elegantly scored and evocative, especially in the opening Mantra, in which the saxophone interweaves with the orchestral soloists, and in the pulsing, almost Stravinsky-esque First Ritual Dance. But it is Brett Dean’s 2007 flute concerto The Siduri Dances, here arranged for saxophone, which offers the most wide-ranging demonstration of Dickson’s mastery with its note-bending, buzzing effects and hectic rhythms.