Wynton Marsalis’ Swing Symphony in Perth

Wynton Marsalis’ tribute to the history and players of this great music tradition is evident in his playing, choice of work, and his humble sharing of the stage. He is an internationally respected teacher and spokesperson for music education and was appointed Messenger of Peace by Kofi Annan in 2001.

The first part of the evening was the 15 piece ‘Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra’ performing a number of Jazz standards with Marsalis’ introductions. Technically brilliant and also soulfully smooth, Marsalis evoked an emotional response in every piece, starting with a Jelly Roll Morton work and slightly smaller group on stage.

The Homage to Salvador Dali work had beautiful layers of sound and a wonderful interplay with two soloists standing up front. It was both technically superb and a very human piece of music; you could feel emotion in every note. For the famous George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue the band were seamless and the interpretation was fresh. There was a 1938 Duke Ellington work with a soaring crystal clear long solo from Marsalis. Their ensemble work was exemplary and brilliantly engaging. So to was the palpable enjoyment they demonstrated on stage and as a consequence my enjoyment of it was hugely increased.

After the interval we heard a magnificent creation of Wynton Marsalis’ Symphony No. 3: Swing Symphony supplemented by the full West Australian Symphony Orchestra – approximately 95 musicians on stage and certainly a sight to behold. The buoyancy and energy in every note and the shimmering swing full sound intercut with high trumpet so clear it’s almost acidic soaring over 95 musicians and evocation of 1 920s style and use of syncopation and in another movement evoking silky dancing across endless ballroom floors 1950’s style and finishes with a plaintive sax solo just questioning. The emotional evocation in the music was vivid. Marsalis writes for the whole orchestra and allows each instrument to be fully present but I must make special note of the muted trumpets which showed the extraordinary range of sounds for this instrument.

WASO performs more than 140 concerts each year, however I haven’t seen them as electrically engaged as this for a while. Conductor Christopher Dragon is currently the associate conductor of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, as well as his work with WASO, and vigorously demonstrates his talent in leading such a passionate group of musicians for the Swing Symphony performance. In the encores there was a gorgeous Happy Birthday for the first violin player in WASO with extended riffs from great jazz players and then in a second encore we heard from some of the WASO brass section in various solo improvised outings which was just fantastic.

They are moving onto Brisbane after these Perth gigs followed by a short New Zealand tour. This is one event for jazz lovers and all music lovers not to miss.

by Mariyon Slany
Source: Performing ArtsHub

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