Symphony's Pops Concert has lots of sax appeal

"When the San Antonio Symphony dubbed its latest Pops concert "Swingsational," it was not -- as my mother would say -- "just a-woofin'." The Majestic Theater was rocked to its painted-sky ceiling Thursday night with nonstop bopping, jiving and big band sound. 

Perpetrators of all this energy were the orchestra, capably led by resident conductor David In-Jae Cho, and the Capitol Quartet, a first-rate foursome of saxophones based in the Baltimore area. 

The appealing all-orchestral first-half agenda held works by Bernstein, Mancini, Gershwin, Leroy Anderson and an especially well-crafted and well-played big-band medley arranged by Jeff Tyzik. 

Post-intermission came the quartet, clad in pinstripe zoot suits and spectator shoes, making its entrance down the audience center aisle with an invigorating version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" that brought chuckles from those who recognized some phrases from Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." 

The program centered on expertly delivered classic 1940s and '50s tunes, with and without orchestra backing, bridged with good-natured introductions and corny jokes. 

There was much to be savored, but this listener's favorite was "Fugue Well-Tampered," Stambler's inventive solo quartet arrangement of two intertwining Bach fugues. It began traditionally, with clear counterpoint, before evolving into a glittering essay in jazz rhythms and harmonies. Nau turned in a virtuoso reading of "Stella by Starlight," a salute to Charlie Parker's improvisation style. Stambler took center stage for a lavish arrangement of "My Foolish Heart," and gleefully fooled the audience with his intricate final cadenza. Turns out that the last, impossibly long-held high note had been snatched up by the soprano sax before Stambler ran out of breath and keeled over. The single encore was a dizzying version of "Flight of the Bumblebee." Funny guys and fine musicians -- a delightful way to begin a new year. Check 'em out."