Wynton Marsalis’ spectacular ode to the urban jungle of New York

It’s been 21 years since Wynton Marsalis last brought the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra to Melbourne. The ensemble’s line-up has changed significantly since then but the JLCO’s unwavering focus on both the legacy and future of jazz remains unchanged.

The orchestra presented works from the 1930s ’40s and ’60s, along with Marsalis’ new Symphony No. 4 (The Jungle). The 15-piece ensemble’s precision was showcased in the opening trio of Duke Ellington pieces, including Braggin’ in Brass and two serpentine movements from the Far East Suite.

For Leonard Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, the JLCO was joined by a handful of players from the MSO, including soloist Philip Arkinstall on clarinet. Full of twitchy vitality and ceaseless motion, it was perfectly positioned as a prelude to Marsalis’ symphony, inspired by the urban jungle that is New York City.

Like the Bernstein piece, The Jungle draws from both jazz and classical idioms and is infused with restless energy, though stretches over a much wider canvas. There were more than 100 musicians on stage for the hour-long symphony, the JLCO ensconced within the MSO’s ranks as conductor Nicholas Buc deftly guided them through six intricate movements, each exploring a different aspect of New York.

Imaginatively conceived and masterfully executed, the symphony unfolded like an aural kaleidoscope, with dazzling colours and perpetual shifts in tone, rhythm and dynamics. It was bold, captivating and occasionally exhausting – just like the city that inspired it.

By Jessica Nicholas
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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