Dusk and Dawn by Amy Dickson: Sony

This review was published on: November 22nd 2013
Sony Music Classical, £11.50
Amy Dickson (soprano and alto saxophone)
Review by Ken Morris 

I have to say that this new release from the Australian born/London RCM trained saxophonist contains some exquisite melodies. For example: Tom Waite's (short) In the neighbourhood, William Walton's Touch her Soft Lips and Part and Nino Rota's La Strada. In fact the entire CD is, melodically, quite delightful providing 53 minutes of orchestral or piano/orchestral backed saxophone solos over 12 tracks. Contents-wise there is not a disappointing piece.

However something strange has been going on in the post production sound processing. Amy's upper register soprano tone doesn't sound quite right – it's like someone has been trying to 'sweeten' it. I took the opportunity to audition Amy on YouTube clips from her web-site. Again I detected, in her playing of Philip Glass's Violin Concerto No 1 Movements i. and ii., some unusual tonal qualities as well as being almost drowned by the backing. On return to Dusk and Dawn I found that on some tracks it was difficult to say whether she was on soprano or alto. My only conclusion was we are being treated to a 'conditioned' sound which may be what the producers think the general public want but it is definitely off-putting to this reviewer.

Track 8, 'Dr Gradus ad Parnassum' from Debussy's Children's Corner demonstrates that Amy has a fine technique while most of the remaining material is technically quite un-demanding. This is not to imply that any track is poorly played. Quite the opposite it is all superbly played – just thin on “gosh” and “wow” moments for us saxophone geeks.

While James McMillan is credited with “production” responsiblilty I have no definitive information on who arranged the material or conducted the orchestra. For those familiar with the work of Vince Mendoza I can be certain that it wasn't him. Some of the arrangements, typically I only have eyes for you (Warren and Dubin) and Nocturne (Chopin), are poorly handled and the latter is totally un-suited to a 'commercialised' saxophone tone.

While not without faults this CD will, I am sure, give pleasure to many just because it contains so many wonderful themes, such as Skylark (Carmichael), Milonga Del Angel (Piazzolla), Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Kern and Harbach) and Pavane (Faure). Pity about the knob twiddlers.


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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at Flat 51, Parkview Apartments, 122 Chrisp Street, London, E14 6ET. Email: membership(@) Tel: 01642 769 558

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