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Heritage/Evolution: PRISM Quartet with Joe Lovano

The saxophone’s dual histories in classical music and jazz inspire a new collaboration.

The Latest Update


Posted on May 12, 2017 by PRISM Quartet, Inc.

We’re excited to share a press release announcing the Heritage/Evolution project. The release includes lots of information, including quotes from Joe Lovano and PRISM’s Timothy McAllister, and complete information about the entire program.


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Painted Bride and lpr Co-Presenting H/E with Joe Lovano

Posted on September 6, 2016 by PRISM Quartet, Inc.

We’re happy to report venue updates for the PRISM Quartet’s Heritage/Evolution project with the incomparable Joe Lovano. The Philadelphia concert will take place on Saturday, June 3, 2017 at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia, and on Sunday, June 4 at (le) poisson rouge in NYC. Both the Bride and lpr will co-present the programs with PRISM. An official announcement with details is coming later this month. In the meantime, save the dates!


PRISM Quartet, Inc. respectfully requests support to commission a new saxophone quintet from Joe Lovano.

The project completes phase two of Heritage/Evolution, an initiative that partners the classical PRISM Quartet with master jazz saxophonists to explore the instrument’s cross-cultural heritage. The project was envisioned in multiple stages to engage the nation’s most innovative and influential jazz saxophonists/composers over a 10-year period. Phase 1 (2014) featured new works by Rudresh Mahanthappa, Miguel Zenón, David Liebman, Greg Osby, Steve Lehman, and Tim Ries. Phase 2 began in 2015 with new works from Chris Potter and Ravi Coltrane.

With this project, PRISM will commission Joe Lovano, who will join the ensemble as a guest soloist in May 2017 premiere performances at World Cafe Live (Philadelphia) and Symphony Space (NYC). The work will be recorded for Heritage/Evolution, Volume 2 on XAS Records (PRISM’s new label, distributed by Naxos) alongside works by Coltrane and Potter.

Perhaps no instrument better symbolizes jazz than the saxophone, yet its roots in classical music are formidable, if little-known. In the 1840s, the French military commissioned Adolphe Sax to create an instrument with the flexibility of a woodwind and the sonority/projection of a brass instrument. A century later, Marcel Mule established a proud tradition of classical saxophone performance in France during his tenure at the Paris Conservatory (1942–1968). In 1953, Larry Teal became the first full-time professor of saxophone at an American university (University of Michigan). His most accomplished student, Donald Sinta, succeeded him, mentoring students who formed PRISM in 1984.

The saxophone was also championed by artists who altered the course of jazz, from Charlie Parker, the foremost figure in the development of be-bop in the early 1940s, to Ornette Coleman, whose work in free jazz beginning in the late 1950s broke down conventions of harmony and rhythm. The jazz sax evolved as John Coltrane and his contemporaries continued to redefine the art form, inspiring generations of jazz artists who followed.

The proposed collaboration will bridge the saxophone’s dual heritages by consciously blending divergent saxophone worlds in a collaborative process of discovery.

Since the late 1980s, Lovano has been one of the world’s premiere tenor saxophone players, earning a Grammy award and several nods on Down Beat magazine’s critics’ and readers’ polls. AllAboutJazz wrote: “Lovano’s success is his fearless ability to always challenge and push the conceptual and thematic choices he makes in a quest for new modes of artistic expression and new takes on what defines the jazz idiom.”

Joe Lovano: “My commission, ‘Super Sonix,’ will explore the natural beauty of a Harmolodics (the musical philosophy associated with Ornette Coleman/avant-garde/free jazz), and the amazing range of timbres from within the saxophone/woodwind family. I will join PRISM on tenor saxophone, G mezzo soprano saxophone, alto clarinet, taragato, wood flutes, oriental gongs, and African percussion/drums. This piece will synthesize my personal experiences working in some of the great saxophone sections throughout my life: The Woody Herman Thundering Herd, The Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, The Carla Bley Band, and Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra.”

Project Media

Radical Alignment from 15 Places At The Same Time by Steve Lehman
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PRISM Quartet: Timothy McAllister, soprano sax; Zachary Shemon, alto sax; Matthew Levy, tenor sax; Taimur Sullivan, bari sax; with Steve Lehman, alto sax. Steve Lehman writes, “15 Places investigates boundaries, both real and imagined: the lines that separate musical communities, modes of perception, and histories of performance practice.” The sample demonstrates the degree to which PRISM is able to interact, by both interpreting highly complex notated music, and creating its own music through free improvisation.

Folk Art by Joe Lovano
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Features: Joe Lovano

US FIVE: Joe Lovano – tenor sax; James Weidman – piano; Petar Slavov – bass; Otis Brown III, Francisco Mela- drums, percussion. CUE at 2:15 for Lovano solo. Lovano: “These work samples are relevant to the proposed commission because they demonstrate my interest in bringing together a range of musical expressions/forms/performance practices, and mixing composed music and improvisation. They also demonstrate many of the instruments that I will play in the newly proposed work (sax, bass cl., drums/percussion) with PRISM.”

Start and End Dates



Philadelphia and NYC

2 updates
Last update on May 12, 2017

Project Created By

NYC and Philly
Intriguing programs of great beauty and breadth have distinguished the PRISM Quartet as one of America’s foremost chamber ensembles. PRISM seeks to place the saxophone in unexpected contexts, chart fresh musical territory, and to challenge, inspire, and move audiences. “A bold ensemble that set the standard for contemporary-classical saxophone quartets” (The New York Times), PRISM was…

In Collaboration With

Guest composer/saxophonist
New York, New York


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