Prism Quartet Turns 30, Announces Ambitious 3-Part Concert Series In Philadelphia And New York City


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PRISM Quartet
The classical PRISM Quartet commissions six of today's most inventive jazz saxophonists to compose sax quintets & sextets and perform them with PRISM

Heritage/Evolution 1:
PRISM Quartet with
Steve Lehman & Rudresh Mahanthappa
Friday, April 11 at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia
Saturday, April 12 at Symphony Space, NYC

Heritage/Evolution 2:
PRISM Quartet with
Thursday, May 8 at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia
Friday, May 9 at Symphony Space, NYC

Heritage/Evolution 3:
PRISM Quartet with
Dave Liebman & Greg Osby
Wednesday, June 11 at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia
Thursday, June 12 at Symphony Space, NYC

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

$57 Public, $42 Students (Subscriptions)
$22 Public, $17 Students/Children (Individual Concerts)

Constantly in search of new musical terrain, the PRISM Quartet (Timothy McAllister, Taimur Sullivan, Matthew Levy, and Zachary Shemon) celebrates its 30th anniversary with a groundbreaking concert and recording series entitled HERITAGE/EVOLUTION.

From April 11, 2014 through June 12, 2014, three concerts at both Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut Street) and New York City’s Thalia Theater at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway at 95th Street) will feature world premieres of newly commissioned works composed and performed by six master jazz saxophonists who defy convention: STEVE LEHMAN, DAVE LIEBMAN, RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA, GREG OSBY, TIM RIES, and MIGUEL ZENÓN.

PRISM Quartet—the country's premier saxophone group rooted primarily in classical music— will perform the works along with the guest composers who are all rooted primarily in jazz. Each concert features two composers as soloists in the commissioned works.

This unprecedented saxophone summit will also include master classes, symposia, community outreach performances, and post-concert discussions, and will culminate in a recording of the commissioned works.

Heritage/Evolution presents exciting challenges for both PRISM and the partnering composers. Although the saxophone is a mainstay of jazz ensembles, jazz composers rarely write for saxophone ensembles alone. As PRISM is discovering, these six artists are eager to explore the format, guided by their intimate knowledge of the instrument as they invent new sound worlds for the multi-sax group.

The result will be a collection of distinctive pieces—a new fabric of saxophone repertoire— that draws on the instrument's cross-cultural heritage, blending jazz with Western classical music, including Spectral music (Steve Lehman), South Indian classical (Rudresh Mahanthappa), Latin American folkloric music (Miguel Zenón), and more.

PRISM has long kept new music at the forefront of its programming; Heritage/Evolution carries this mission forward, continuing to blur the lines between composition and improvisation, academy and folklore, past and future. An ongoing project, plans are already underway for new collaborators next year; among the guests are Ravi Coltrane and Chris Potter.

Heritage/Evolution is dedicated to the memory of Michael Whitcombe (1962-2013), PRISM’s founding alto saxophonist whose artistry and vision shaped the quartet for over 20 years.


Subscription tickets ($57 Public, $42 Students) to a set of three concerts at either World Cafe Live in Philadelphia or Symphony Space in New York City are available.

Individual tickets ($22 Public, $17 Students/Children) are also available online or at the respective venues; World Cafe Live in Philadelphia and Symphony Space in New York City.


The PRISM Quartet, along with the six guest composers, will lead workshops, master classes, and panel discussions surrounding the Heritage/Evolution performances. Located at the Curtis Institute of Music and the University of the Arts, a wide array of topics will be addressed including producing and distributing recorded works; developing one’s artistic identity; and the diverse approaches to the saxophone represented by the artists. These events are free and open to the public.

PRISM will also launch a new program called “Composition for Kids,” held at the Northwest branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The program offers 5th and 6th grade students an opportunity to learn about contemporary music, composition using graphic notation (where images represent musical gesture, texture, note length, etc.) and improvisation. Led by PRISM members in small groups, the students will compose their own pieces, performed by PRISM at the culmination of the workshops.


Following their performances in Philadelphia and New York, PRISM and the six composers will bring these new works into the recording studio. The double-CD edition of Heritage/Evolution will be released in October 2014 on innova Recordings, distributed worldwide by Naxos. PRISM has a prolific recording output; the most recent disc is People’s Emergency Center, which will be released May 27, 2014.

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