Admiral Launch Duo: saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and harpist Jennifer R. Ellis

Admiral Launch Duo proves sax and harp surprisingly amiable companions

Mark Gresham | 10 JAN 2019

When saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and harpist Jennifer R. Ellis first performed together, they were struck by the varied and beautiful blending of timbres that came from this instrumental odd couple, and decided it would make a great combination as an ongoing duo.

Named for the admiral butterfly, their Admiral Launch Duo first took flight at the Fresh Inc Festival in 2013, then began building their reputation, appearing at venues nationwide from San Francisco’s Center for New Music to New York City’s Spectrum.

“Launch,” the duo’s debut CD, was released December 1 on the Albany label (TROY1752), featuring a smorgasbord of pieces by nine composers: Yusef Lateef, Angélica Negrón, Ida Gotkovsky, Marcel Tournier, Stephen Rush, Natalie Moller, Patrick O’Malley, Christine Delphine Hedden, and Jasper Sussman. Its 18 tracks range from pieces commissioned by the Duo to a pair of notable transcriptions of French works: Ida Gotkovsky’s “Eolienne,” originally written for flute and harp, arranged by the composer, and Marcel Tournier’s “La lettre du jardinier,” a 1912 work originally for voice and harp, recorded here in the duo’s own arrangement. Six are world premiere recordings.

One of the tracks was posted to YouTube by Albany Records for free public perusal: “Whirlwind” which composer Stephen Rush describes as a spun-out “Funk-Indian Toccata plus a slow cadenza.” (Listen via the video embedded below.)

As thoroughly attractive as it is unlikely, the combination of sax and harp offers up a sonic experience that is as delectable as it is original, engagingly rendered on this disc by Ellis and Hulting-Cohen. It entices the listener to want to hear them perform live. ■

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