I recently reviewed Fortmann’s Saxophone sonata on an Antes disc where it nestled comfortably in a mixed programme by other composers. Here Thomas Fortmann stands alone, in a disc devoted entirely to his works for saxophone.
As noted elsewhere the Sonata is in three conventionally written movements but it covers enjoyable stylistic ground. The bluesy songfulness that suffuses it announces Fortmann as an unstuffy admirer of the colloquial American muse. The central panel brings more active, though hardly militant, pianism. The Hopperesque slow movement adopts a more aloof, guarded and hooded profile, whereas the finale is freewheeling, reprising the blues motif of the opening with pride, this time rejuvenated.
Catholic Blues goes from delicacy to the slow insinuation of the Blues, in looser funkier lines than the sonata. Steve Potts’s (presumably) rolling, improvised lines later on add a hard core jazz profile. BacH Cab (as written) exudes baroque procedure as well as richly chordal piano, though the piano does espouse more biting, acerbic writing beneath the sax’s aloof and independent line. There’s a funky Keith Jarrett element in Eben, eben amidst the more reflective material. A rock groove runs throughout Three Piggies in Clover. His work for saxophone quartet is interesting; Sonkran cleaves to Fortmann’s more cerebral and withdrawn side whilst Pop Oh Kakapitl – the man has a way with titles – is genial and tuneful.
The Sonatina has Ragtimey exchanges between the soprano and tenor protagonists and engaging it is too. And in A Little American Night Music he plays with – what else? – some Wolfgang Amadeus, infusing it with Ragtime, Swing and dance patterns galore. A Whale in the Circus alerts us to the zany side of things, a real big top sensibility written to amuse and entertain.
Fortmann is no stuffed shirt, no long-hair merchant, and no purveyor of tone rows. His music is locked into jazz, and rock backbeat and the sinuous song of saxophonic yearning. His musicians serve him finely, and they’ve been well recorded.