I recently picked up a copy of The Many Sides of Alfred Gallodoro, Vol. I from Half.com. (As of this writing, they don’t have any copies left, so you’ll either have to get yours from his own website or from CD Baby. There are sound clips at both sites.)
Mr. Gallodoro is a living legend of woodwind playing: born in 1913, started playing professionally as a teenager, and is still at it. I’ve got him listed on my little woodwind doublers’ hall of fame, and you can read his full official bio here.
The Many Sides of Alfred Gallodoro, vol. I is a collection of recordings from 1948 to 1958. The release date of the compilation appears to be 1998.
Mr. Gallodoro is known for virtuoso playing on clarinet, bass clarinet, and alto saxophone, and you can hear him do all three on this disc.
Of special interest to me was the Concerto for Doubles (alto saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet) by Ralph Hermann, since there are precious few good feature pieces for woodwind doublers. (Just to make things confusing, there is one other piece in existence, also titled Concerto for Doubles, using the same instrumentation, and commissioned by Paul Whiteman for Mr. Gallodoro, but composed by Thomas Filas.) The Hermann piece was recorded in a single midnight session in Carnegie Hall, with a fifty-piece orchestra. No pressure! The piece, like most of the Whiteman band’s music, sounds dated to 21st-century ears, but charmingly so.
The first movement showcases Mr. Gallodoro’s fluid, fluent alto playing, including a nice altissimo C at the end. The second movement, a pretty bass clarinet feature, shows off Mr. Gallodoro’s surprising but effective use of vibrato on that instrument (he doesn’t use it on the “soprano” clarinet). Too bad this movement is the only example of his bass clarinet playing that made it onto the disc. I like that Hermann’s bass clarinet writing, though it does use the bass clarinet’s higher register at times, really puts the meaty stuff where it belongs, in the instrument’s lowest octave. Contemporary composers take note. The third movement is my favorite, a light and slightly tongue-in-cheek waltz. The clarinet writing is virtuosic, and Mr. Gallodoro’s playing sounds beautifully effortless.
Next up is Mr. Gallodoro’s rendition of Jimmy Dorsey’s Oodles of Noodles. Don’t be put off by the silly title, and hang on through the virtuosic-but-hokey opening section: the real payoff here is the bluesier middle section. Throughout, Mr. Gallodoro’s technique is jaw-dropping, and his sound lovely. I recently attended the North American Saxophone Alliance’s Biennial Conference and heard many incredible players doing the latest cutting-edge music, full of special effects and bizarre sounds. I can’t help but wonder how well some of them would handle a piece like this. Mr. Gallodoro’s live recording of Paul Bonneau’s Caprice en forme de valse, which WAS played at the conference, sounds absolutely fresh and modern. Had Mr. G been at the conference, I think he would have sent some saxophonists back home to woodshed.
Mr. Gallodoro’s own version of of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu for clarinet and orchestra is solidly arranged and expertly executed, but the really substantial clarinet work here is the Brahms Quintet. Mr. Gallodoro’s playing, is, as always, above reproach in terms of technique and musicianship (okay, maybe just a little pitchy in spots?), but the disc still loses momentum at this point. The Brahms is just too long and too heavy among the shorter, lighter fare on this disc. Sue me, but I would have liked to hear a movement or two of this, and then maybe a little more bass clarinet.
The final three pieces are saxophone features with band. All three pieces are with the Gabe Bartold band of 1958, thought Stardust and Harlem Nocturne seem to be scored for jazz big band, while William Reddie’s Caprice for Alto Saxophone and Concert Band seems to be for a larger symphonic wind group. The two jazz tunes are great and show off Gallodoro’s jazz chops; the Reddie piece is also excellent and displays his abilities as a “classical” saxophonist. I hadn’t even heard of the Reddie piece, and a cursory Googling doesn’t turn up much besides this CD, but I think it’s a grat piece and it’s a shame it isn’t heard much. Perhaps it’s too short and too tonal for today’s soloists. Oh well.
All in all, The Many Sides of Alfred Gallodoro, Vol. I is a very pleasant listen, and certainly a must-have for woodwind doublers. As far as I can tell, there is no volume II. At least, not yet—give the man another century!