Music for Tuba and String Quartet – Jim Shearer and the La Catrina String Quartet

Music for Tuba and String Quartet – Jim Shearer and the La Catrina String Quartet

Label: Summit Records

Release date: Apr 2018

Catalog number: 722


01 Quintet for Tuba and Strings: 1. Andante; Moderato
comp: Manny Albam
02 Quintet for Tuba and Strings: 2. Adagio
comp: Manny Albam
03 Quintet for Tuba and Strings: 3. Andante
comp: Manny Albam
04 Quintet for Tuba and Strings: 4. Allegro mysterioso
comp: Manny Albam
05 Cauterizing the Soul
comp: Justin Raines
06 Doors: 1. Stone Layered Maze
comp: Lon W. Chaffin
07 Doors: 2. Old Leaning Lumber
comp: Lon W. Chaffin
08 Doors: 3. Out About Town
comp: Lon W. Chaffin
09 Doors: 4. Blue Door Blues
comp: Lon W. Chaffin
10 Remember?
comp: James Grant
11 Quintet No. 1 for Tuba and String Quartet
comp: Lester Park
12 Waltz for Betz
comp: James Grant

An intriguing lineup of literature by gifted composers including Manny Albam, a composer of classical and popular music; Justin Raines, who has composed music for 13 films; award winning Lon Chaffin, who composed “Doors” based a series of photographs by Albuquerque photographer, Jim Gale…incorporate ‘rocks’ as an additional sound source; and James Grant (one of five American composers to win the Aaron Copland Award), whose “Remember?” was commissioned by the International Tuba Association.

Jim Shearer
Tubist Jim Shearer holds a D. M. A. in Performance and Literature with an emphasis in music history from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and is also a graduate of Delta State University. He teaches tuba, euphonium, music history, and music appreciation to graduate, undergraduate, and honors students at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

La Catrina String Quartet
Since its founding in 2007, La Catrina String Quartet (LCSQ) has been recognized as the new vanguard for contemporary Latin American string quartet repertoire. Their mission is three-fold: a deep commitment to the cultivation of new works by living U.S. composers and throughout the Americas; the programming of existing Latin American works rarely performed in the U.S. and abroad; and bringing fresh interpretations to classical, romantic, and twentieth-century masterpieces. Hailed by Yo-Yo Ma as “wonderful ambassadors for Latin American music,” LCSQ members are from Mexico

Daniel Vega-Albela and Simón Gollo, violins
Jorge Martínez-Ríos, viola
Jorge Espinoza, cello



Jim Shearer’s Music for Tuba and String Quartet highlights five pieces by living composers, and one that has been all but forgotten to the annals of time. Shearer opens his CD with Manny Albam’s Quintet for Tuba and Strings, a work originally written for Harvey Phillips but which still remains unpublished. Shearer has gone to extensive lengths to resurrect this piece, and his program notes on the background and context of the work are particularly informative and reveal a great deal of energy Shearer has put into its revival. An accomplished jazz arranger and saxophone player, Albam’s “classical” writing is full of unexpected harmonies and conversational exchanges between the tuba and members of the string quartet. Shearer’s performance of this work showcases precisely why this piece should become a staple of the tuba repertoire.

The fifth track of the recording – Cauterizing the Soul by Justin Raines – is a sorrowful tribute to the poetry of Dan Skeleton. Emotive and melancholy, the interplay between the tuba and the string quartet showcases Shearer and the La Catrina Quartet’s emotive abilities. Winner of the 2014 Harvey Phillips Award for Composition Excellence, this piece would be an excellent addition to any chamber recital.

Inspired by the photography of Jim Gale, tracks six through nine feature Lon W. Chaffin’s Doors. Throughout its four movements, this piece utilizes a variety of percussive elements to incorporate new timbres and to evoke the imagery of Gale’s photos better. The second movement, “Old Leaning Lumber,” is particularly evocative with its slides in the strings and lilting tuba part. The asymmetrical meter of the third movement, “Out About Town,” lends itself to a jovial and lighthearted mood, expertly executed by La Catrina Quartet’s seamless transitions between pizzicato and arco playing. The final movement, “Blue Door Blues,” features an actual blues tune briefly interrupted by an interlude of chant- and gospel-inspired interjections. Shearer’s jazz background lends an effortless coolness to the movement that simply put, just grooves.

Originally commissioned for the attendees of the 2014 International Tuba-Euphonium Conference in Bloomington, Indiana, this reviewer is sure that many of our readers already have James Grant’s Remember? in our collective libraries. Shearer’s recording with string quartet – and the tenth track of this CD – however, offers a new rendering of this piece. The sparse string accompaniment provides a ghostly and delicate compliment to Shearer’s emotional interpretation of Grant’s theme.

The eleventh track of this CD features Lester Pack’s Quintet No. 1 for Tuba and String Quartet, a tour-de-force lasting twelve minutes and thirty seconds. Written in four movements with no breaks between the respective sections, the piece opens with an energetic two-part tuba melody over dissonant polychords in the string accompaniment. The second movement of the piece is an adagio with a brief quote of “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations as a nod to Jim Shearer’s competitive barbeque nickname. The third movement of the piece utilizes an ostinato idea in the string parts with a jazz waltz-inspired theme in the tuba melody. A cadenza in the solo tuba part brings the third movement to a close and introduces the fourth and final movement of the piece. The ensemble then moves through a variety of thematic material in an ABCAB form, culminating in what Pack describes as a “bit of a dramatic final cliff-hanger ending.”

The final track of the CD features a lovely lyrical ballad in the style of “Satie by way of Mancini”, according to composer James Grant. Originally written for solo piano, Waltz for Betz exists in versions for each of the principal woodwind, brass, and string instruments playing the solo line, each of which is also available with four different accompaniments. Shearer’s playing floats over the La Cantina Quartet’s accompaniment with ease, showcasing his powerful music-making abilities and offering a lovely end to an even lovelier CD.

-Genevieve Clarkson, Oklahoma City University