The saxophone has always had a grudging acceptance in the classical arena. For Wagner, Adolphe Saxe's new instruments were called on to deputise for French Horns in Tannhauser; decades later, when Richard Strauss stipulated saxes for his Domestic Symphony, they cautiously doubled the strings.
Budgeting caused Bizet to use the instrument in the first version of L'Arlesienne and when Vaughan Williams introduced saxophone tones into his 1930 ballet Job, it was to catch the oily voices of Job's comforters.
Innovation would come from the nightclub rather than the concert hall, as 60s players such as Albert Ayler, John Coltrane and Anthony Braxton liberated the instrument with music spilling over into the avant-garde. Today, saxophonists such as Michael Brecker, John Harle and Rob Buckland carry on that tradition.
While Harle is fond of doing the formal sonata thing, fellow Briton Rob Buckland leans more towards jazz. His Quartz album, Towards the Light, opens with a spine-tingling take on Chick Corea's Children's Songs. Emerging from a full-throated wail, rising over a storm of piano, Buckland never compromises the essential simplicity of the original piano pieces.
This man goes to Sonataland, too, with a Fuzzy Bird Sonata by Takashi Yoshimatsu, a Japanese composer you can find in the Chandos Records catalogue. Slickly synced with Peter Lawson's piano, Buckland progresses from Run, Bird and Sing, Bird to the final Fly, Bird. And, if the irksome sub-Brubeck jamming in the first doesn't alienate you, hang in for a livelier soundscape when Yoshimatsu's bird becomes airborne.
Buckland and Lawson use all their considerable musicianship to illuminate two reflective offerings from Nikki Iles and Graham Fitkin. Of the two, less supple-textured Alma Venus is the more rewarding.
Andy Scott's Nemesis, a sonata in all but name, finds Buckland playing tribute to fellow sax-man and colleague in the Apollo Saxophone Quartet, the chief pleasure being the cat-and-mouse games between Buckland and vibes player Simone Rebello.
The palette is extended for the final track, Roy Powell's Towards the Light, with the composer adding a synthesiser backdrop, but the piece creaks a little with its 12-minute running time.
* Rob Buckland, Towards the Light (Quartz QTZ 2020, through Ode Records)