The tango, as a musical style, has become increasingly popular over the last few years through its association with the dramatic dance of the same name and its unique blend of sensitivity and aggressiveness. Its connotations with sexual desire and elegance have made it a favourite in film and among many classical composers. Specifically in the context of the traditional concert hall, composers such as Astor Piazzolla have popularised the genre.
“Piazzolla’s metamorphosis of the tango genre has left us with a musical form that allows and even encourages all of the things that we wanted to do with the group,” explains soprano saxophonist, Christina Leonard. Indeed, Piazzolla’s music was renowned for absorbing elements of classical and jazz. Neuvo Tango as it became known, moved traditional tango music away from purely dance music to music “for the ears not the feet.”
In considering possibilities for Compass’ first collaboration, Christina Leonard knew the unique blending possibilities of piano accordion and guitar with saxophone quartet were hard to ignore.
In searching for personnel to join the project, the quartet approached two colleagues of tenor saxophonist Matt Ottignon. Impressed by his precocious performance skills, 22 year Marcello Maio, was an obvious choice for both commissioning and performance collaboration. His training as a jazz pianist is also evident throughout his performance and compositional style. The artistry and musical humour of guitarist Julian Curwin, who leads several groups of his own such as The Tango Saloon, completes the line-up for the first Compass project.
The final momentum for the group came with assistance and support from Fr. Arthur Bridge at Ars Musica Australis. Ars Musica Australis values the creation of new Australian music and generously funded the commissioning of the Tango project.
Combining the diverse paths of two pairs of saxophone players, Compass Quartet – Christina Leonard, Jeremy Rose, Matthew Ottignon, Luke Gilmour – form one of the most interesting and dynamic groups to emerge in Australia’s music scene. Inspired by the idea of breaking down barriers between classical music and improvised jazz, Compass takes an innovative and flexible approach to the Saxophone Quartet, combining influences as that are, distinct, new and unusual.
Committed to expanding the context and genre of the Saxophone Quartet, Compass have, and plan to continue to commission new works to be written for collaborations with some of Australia’s finest instrumentalists.
Christina Leonard – soprano saxophone
Christina is committed to expanding the repertoire of music for Saxophone and is very involved in the concert promotion and arrangement of new music. In 2007 Christina was awarded an Australia Council Grant to commission two new works for her Quartet ‘The Collective’ (Saxophone, Violin, ‘cello and Piano) and is currently collaborating with many of Australia’s finest composers to create new works for Saxophone. Christina has performed many solo and ensemble recitals and made recordings and broadcasts for both 2MBSfm and ABC Classic FM.
Christina was awarded a Queens Trust Scholarship to study in London, lectures Saxophone at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and plays with both the SSO and the AOBO.
Christina is a core member of the chamber music ensemble Sydney Soloists, has played recitals and recorded a CD with Jazz Pianist Matt McMahon as well as a CD of Baroque music that she arranged for Harp, ‘cello and Soprano Saxophone with Marshall McGuire and Daniel Yeadon.
Jeremy Rose – alto saxophone
Jeremy began his musical development at the age of six on piano and clarinet, before moving to saxophone at the age of twelve. Before completing his Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours from the Sydney Conservatorium in 2007, Jeremy spent time studying and performing in Oslo, Norway. His diverse musical interests are reflected in the variety of bands that he leads and writes for. His foremost band, The Vampires, have recently released their first CD, a unique blend of jazz and reggae. Other musical excursions include modern jazz group The Jeremy Rose Quartet, electro acoustic group Push, afro-reggae band The Strides, as well as working with legendary jazz pianist Judy Bailey. He has performed for ABC Classic FM’s Sunday Live program, and has been the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships. In June, Jeremy will be embarking on a scholarship to study in both London and New York, as well as record an album with Norwegian musicians met on his previous visit.
Matthew Ottignon – tenor saxophone
His saxophone has been described as being a classic tenor sound as wide as a double-frontage terrace. Matthew has completed a Bachelor of Music with first class honours from the Sydney Conservatorium. He has appeared on the recordings of Katie Noonan, Jackie Orszazcky, and Blue King Brown and has appeared on stage with international legends Lou Reed and Brian Wilson. Ever since moving to Sydney from his hometown of Auckland NZ, Matthew has been in demand for his ability to add something special to bands, dj’s and recording artists from all over the world, in particular having spent some time with jazz master Mike Nock. His skills as a multi instrumentalist have cemented him a position in triple aria winning band Monsieur Camembert. His own jazz trio project ‘Informal Troupe’ released their debut album in 2007 to critical acclaim.
Luke Gilmour – baritone saxophone
After completing his Bachelor of Music on Saxophone from the Sydney Conservatorium in 2000 and working with the Royal Australian Navy Band until 2006, Luke has had a wealth of experience in music production and performance. During his time with the Navy Band, he performed as a soloist, as well as arranged for this group. He was also involved in the RAN Jazz Orchestra and led the RAN Saxophone Quartet.
Luke is Ensembles Director at several prominent schools in Sydney and is a Conductor for the NSW Department of Education Arts Unit. In 2008, he was Assistant Chorsumaster with the Willoughby Symphony Choir. Luke is a graduate of the University of North Texas Conducting Collegium and has participated in Symphony Australia’s Conductor Development Program. Also a talented composer, Luke recently received the Fellowship of Australian Composers Award in 2007 for his orchestral work, Momentum. In 2009, he has commenced his Masters in Conducting with Maestro Imre Pallo at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.