a raft, the sky, the wild sea

Douglas J. Cuomo's Saxophone Concerto for Joe Lovano will receive its World Premiere with Fort Worth Symphony and Robert Spano on October 14th 2022, followed by the UK Premiere on November 2nd with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Joshua Weilerstein at the Royal Festival Hall.

While writing a raft, the sky, the wild sea, Cuomo was imagining an inner voyage, one that is sometimes calm and reassuring, sometimes startling and turbulent. You’re being taken somewhere, but you're not sure where or how you'll get there. So the journey becomes about what’s happening right now, in this instant, and then in the next instant, and the next, and the next. This is all of us, each on our own metaphysical voyage on a raft under the open sky, trying to cross the wild sea. But for the countless people throughout the world who are forced to flee their homeland to seek safety and a better life, it's a description of a harrowing physical reality. This piece has them in mind also, when the raft, the sky and the sea are dangerous, and the journey is real.


Written for the world-renowned jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano, a raft, the sky, the wild sea draws on the conventions of both the jazz and classical worlds. The musical language of the piece references the vocabularies of both contemporary classical music (building a large-scale three movement musical structure, Lutoslawski influenced strategies of pitch organization and harmonic language, etc.) and jazz (traditional ballad playing, modal improvisation, the blues, etc.).


As in a traditional concerto a dialogue is set up between soloist and orchestra, though in this case much of the soloist’s part will be improvised. The piece prescribes very clearly exactly when the sax plays, but during the improvised sections, exactly what is played is left to the performer. Rhythmic and harmonic guidelines are indicated, as well as the occasional description of mood or feel. Generally however, Cuomo is relying on the orchestral music itself to provide the inspiration for the improvising, knowing that a particular mood in the orchestra could inspire a myriad of improvised musical responses. To leave so much up to the performer requires a deep musical compatibility and tremendous trust. Joe's artistry and wide open musical mind was a guiding light during the writing of this piece, allowing Cuomo to compose with freedom, and with confidence that he would bring exceptional beauty, raw power and heightened emotion to his part.


Cuomo began his professional life as a jazz guitarist before becoming a composer, and the mixing of jazz and classical techniques, and using improvisation within an otherwise fully notated contemporary music setting is something he has explored in various pieces. Most prominently they are Savage Winter (with improvising electric guitar and trumpet), Arjuna’s Dilemma (improvising saxophone, tablas and Indian singer), Black Diamond Express Train to Hell (improvising cello), Seven Limbs (improvising guitar) and much music for film and television, including even the theme for Sex & The City (improvising percussion and saxophone).


See details of World Premiere here

See details of the UK Premiere here

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