Marsalis brings golden jazz to town
The last time I heard a sound this golden was when the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was in town. On Thursday night there was the same rarefied atmosphere as the sound of the iconic Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra blazed through the Perth Concert Hall.
Wynton Marsalis’ big band was part through an arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue when the tender melody exploded into a series of thrilling brass and saxophone chords.
Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo took my breath away for different reasons — its lethargic beauty was built from a conversation between clarinet, muted trumpet, trombone and rhythm section that was a model of impeccable balance, gobsmacking technique and gentlemanly good taste. I say gentlemanly because the line-up was all male: five horn players who between them played 19 different wind instruments, three trombones and four trumpets, including Marsalis.
The bandleader is renowned for championing traditional jazz (a big deal in the 80s when the jazz fraternity headed almost exclusively into experimental territory) which perhaps explains the notable absence of women.
After interval the JLCO were embedded in the WA Symphony Orchestra for Marsalis’ Swing Symphony, a work tracing the evolution of swing.
The opening tune Maple Leaf Rag was introduced by eight clarinets (five jazz clarinets plus three from the orchestral wind section) anchored by the laid-back syncopation of drummer Ali Jackson.
Led by conductor Christopher Dragon, the versatile WASO swung hard alongside their jazz colleagues through a Charleston, a percussion-driven tango, Kansas City Swing and Sing Sing Sing.
Particularly memorable was a sultry saxophone solo shared with the entire cello section; the fast patter of Marsalis’ bebop solo; a mambo groove with the violas doubling the drums and the orchestral wind players conveying the twilight stillness of Ornette Coleman’s Sadness. The symphony rushed by in an intense 60 minutes; a rapid succession of jazz standards that left little space for digestion.
But Marsalis’ creative integration of the two bands, use of recurring motives and sprinkling of stunning solos created a weighty and fascinating orchestral journey through jazz.
by Rosalind Appleby
Source: The West Australian