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From Bach to Billie Holiday: Justin Hubbard’s gutsy guide to music

Saxophonist Justin Hubbard will play alongside collaborative pianist Holly Quist on Feb. 16. (Courtesy of J. Reynolds)

Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3. A jazzy riff on Billie Holliday’s speech patterns. A moody French tribute to Provence. And a deeply melodic concerto by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov, who cultivated Romantic idioms without the nationalism of his mentor Rimsky-Korsakov.

That’s the program for the next concert in the Unitarian Universalist Recital Series. At 7 p.m. Feb. 16, Fort Lewis College faculty members Justin Hubbard and collaborative pianist Holly Quist will jump the musical chasm from baroque to modern jazz with a sojourn in the land of Romanticism.

It takes a leap of imagination to put a program together like this one, and Hubbard is just the daring, young musician to do it. He conducts the FLC Symphonic Band and teaches saxophone and clarinet. He also freelances with the San Juan Youth Symphony and various bands in the U.S. and Canada. He is also an experienced audio engineer and producer. Look behind the scenes at productions in the FLC Performing Arts Department, and you’ll find him electronically tweaking sound and lights.

If you go

WHAT: UUFD Recital Series: Saxophonist Justin Hubbard, pianist Holly Quist.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Feb. 16.

WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 419 San Juan Drive.

ADMISSION: Individual tickets $20/$8. Cash or checks.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit durangouu.org/events/recital-series, or contact Marilyn Garst: 385-8668, mmgarst1940@gmail.com.

Hubbard’s UUFD recital debut occurs in the middle of the 16th season. If you are a fan of Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello, you’re in for a surprise. He will open with No. 3 in C Major on his baritone saxophone. You read that right. It’s been transcribed to another key comfortable for that warm and provocative instrument.

Many musicologists believe the Bach Suites are the most beautiful and compelling solo-instrument works of all time. Each suite opens with a prelude followed by five baroque dances, and they all contain an Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and a Gigue as well as a variable fifth dance. For No. 3, it is a Bourrée with two parts. Listen to them all, and the variety is astounding, from mood to invention. Hubbard will present what many consider to be the most majestic of the six.

Why not follow Bach with Billie Holliday via a contemporary spin on the famous jazz singer? Titled “Billie,” the 2003 work was composed by Jacob TV (ter Veldhuis) for alto sax, piano and audio. It’s based on the singer’s radio interviews.

“Jacob TV, followed her cadences and patterns of speech, at times directly mimicking her words in the saxophone,” Hubbard said. “He uses those riffs to build the work into a groove tune.”

Collaborative Pianist Holly Quist. (Courtesy)

After the Holiday excursion, Hubbard and Quist will perform French composer Paule Maurice’s “Tableaux de Provence.” Originally created for saxophone and orchestra in 1934, this sumptuous work will appear in its transcription for sax and piano. The five movements, Hubbard said, capture a different mood and scene in southeast France.

The two will close the recital with the Saxophone Concerto of 1934 by Glazunov. It was composed to spotlight the instrument’s sonority with a full orchestra. The piano transcription has also had a long concert life and is a staple in the saxophone repertoire. Glazunov created the one-movement concerto to be played without pause. It will be an emotional and perfect resolution to an unusual recital. To say this is a rare opportunity in the annals of Durango concert history is an understatement.

Meet the musicians

Justin Hubbard earned his doctorate in Musical Arts in Conducting from Arizona State University, a master’s degree from the University of Nevada, Reno, and an undergraduate degree in music from Central Michigan University. Holly Quist teaches piano, music theory and music history at FLC. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master’s from the University of Missouri and a bachelor’s from Western Michigan University.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.