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Thomas Erdmann has two articles published in Saxophone Today

The professor of music had two articles published in the professional saxophone journal.


Professor of Music Thomas Erdmann had two 6,000-word articles published in the March 2016 issue of Saxophone Today.

Thomas Erdmann, professor of music
The first article is on New York based jazz musician Dave Pietro. So highly revered as a musician, he has been called upon to play for countless studio sessions and is continually asked to join the city’s best jazz groups. Currently a member of the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Gil Evans Project and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Pietro also spent over 20 years playing in the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra as her lead alto saxophonist.

Pietro came up the old fashioned way, by working hard and making a name for himself as a member of many big name big bands. Included in the list are bands led by John Fedchock, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, as well as the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, to list just a few. Pietro has also played with a laundry list of other artists including Paul Anka, Blood Sweat & Tears, David Bowie, Rosemary Clooney, Chaka Khan, Liza Minelli, and on and on.

Raised in Southboro, Massachusetts, Pietro arrived in New York in 1987. A call to work with Pietro on one of his CDs is something today’s best musicians relish. Some of those who have answered that call are Brian Blade, Dave Holland, Bill Stewart and Scott Wendholt, to list just a few. A semi-finalist, in 1991 and 1996 in the first two Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Saxophone Competitions, Pietro also garnered grants from organizations like the National Endowment of the Arts and Chamber Music America.

Earning a bachelor's in music education from the University of North Texas, Bachelor of Music Education and a master's in jazz composition from New York University, Pietro now teaches at NYU as a professor of Jazz Studies. Exceptionally prolific as a clinician, he is continually on the road sharing his knowledge with a plethora of students throughout the world almost every weekend when he’s not playing somewhere else.

The critics also love him. One Jazz Times writer calls Pietro a “fiery saxophonist” with another saying he is “gifted with virtuosic technique, (making) his point with a lyrical sensibility.” Downbeat seconded that, writing that “as a soloist, Pietro demonstrates power, energy, intelligence and humor.” Pietro is the real deal.

The second article is on Dutch solo saxophonist, composer-recomposer, saxophone instrument modifier and educator Raaf Hekkema. As a performer Hekkema is a true musical and technical monster whose awards list is long and impressive, including earning the German Echo Klassik Instrumentalist of the Year title in 2007.

The critics’ praise of his abilities are numerous and stellar. Erik Voermans wrote, “On his new solo CD Raaf Hekkema achieves the impossible. He plays Bach’s three partitas in his own arrangements for soprano and alto saxophone and does that so convincingly that there are moments where one forgets that Bach conceived these pieces originally for violin.” Jed Distler gave Hekkema’s CD, where he arranged and performed the Paganini Caprices, a perfect score writing, “Have you ever stopped to think what Paganini’s violin caprices would sound like on the saxophone… in the hands of an instrumentalist whose technique does not know the meaning of ‘impossible’, whose tone is unfailingly even, beautiful, and controlled beyond belief, and who seems never to take a breath? Then you’ve come to the right place – indeed, the only place.”

Maarten Maestrom said it best, “Hekkema redraws the boundaries of his instrument in a way that will bring blushes of shame to many saxophonists.” It is true more than one critic has called Hekkema the greatest classical saxophonist playing today.

Hekkema is also a brilliant composer-recomposer who mostly performs his own arrangements, though he does solo often with orchestras doing works such as Ibert’s Concertino and works like Sander Germanus’ Microfobia on recitals. The term recomposer is apt with regard to Hekkema. On his website he writes, “a real arrangement can deliver much more: a new composition, based on the original idea, now truly dedicated to the new instrumentation, without being slavishly true to the original notes, because they were meant for other instruments! In other cases my work goes beyond that, and the original musical message becomes so blurred that out of the original music a truly new expression emerges in the form of a new piece.” This is the case with much of the music Hekkema arranges; they truly become new recompositions of the highest order.

As a saxophonist Hekkema does not limit himself to the way instruments are produced. He and repairman and redesigner Nico Bodewes have worked together in fixing saxophone problems allowing Hekkema more latitude and ease in bringing out his musical conceptions. He is quick to point out, however, while “these new devices are either for improvement of the saxophone or for playing microtones, none of them are necessary for playing Paganini Caprices or other virtuoso stuff.” 

Hekkema has arranged hundreds of works for the highly awarded Calefax Reed Quintet he co-founded. This new genre, (oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bass clarinet and bassoon) is described as a “classical ensemble with a pop mentality.” The Times called the group, “five extremely gifted Dutch gents who almost made the reed quintet seem the best musical format on the planet.”

From classical to world to jazz to improvisation to movie scores and more, their Western and non-Western 900-year repertoire keeps them steadily recording and concertizing.  In addition to all of this Hekkema teaches saxophone at the Royal Conservatoire The Hague and gives many masterclasses internationally.


Thomas Erdmann,
3/2/2017 12:10 PM