Review: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Review: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
(Bebop and Beyond, part of “United in Swing 2010” London residency, Barbican Hall, Friday June 18th 2010, Review by Frank Griffith)

“Keep doin it until we keep on doin it” was the utterance by JALC Orchestra bandleader and featured trumpet soloist, Wynton Marsalis, which best sums up the mission of the orchestra and the durability of this great music. The programme “Bebop and Beyond” showcased repertoire from the 1940s-1960s period, including bop 52nd street themes, early Afro Cuban opuses as well as assorted Basie, Ellington and Oliver Nelson music. All of whom were either African-American or Cuban composers, with the lone exception of one Gerry Mulligan piece. Considering the wealth of other innovative bands and writers from this period (Stan Kenton, Sauter/Finegan,Woody Herman, Claude Thornhill, Gil Evans, etc) one wonders why they were not represented more but, that said, the programme was varied and exemplary indeed.

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There was an arsenal of British guest soloists including the explosive alto saxophonist, Soweto Kinch, who was the first one out of the blocks on Gil Fuller’s “Things to Come” with his searing and incisive solo. This was followed shortly by veteran altoist, Peter King who contributed melodically with his liquid sound on Mary Lou Williams’ “In The Land of Oo–bla-dee” as well as on Gerry Mulligan’s “Festive Minor” on which featured an impromptu duet with Scots baritone saxist and charter JALC Orchestra member, Joe Temperley(Photo Credit: Rosie Reed Gold)

The latin triumvirate of pianist Alex Wilson and percussionists, Satin Singh and Roberto Pla all guested on “Manteca and Havana Blues” with Wilson, making the biggest impression with his spirited and rhythmic imoprovisations bringing about some extreme intensity in his solo development. Not to be outdone, flautist, Andy Panayi, swung mightily, down and dirty on Eddie Durham’s “Moten Swing” with just enough dog-eared tatter and swagger in his sound to depict the seedy 1930s environs of Kansas City.

Among other highlights were altoist Ted Nash‘s scintillating solo on “Havana Blues” working his way up to fevered pitch quickly (no doubt partially due to the paucity of solo length, associated with big bands) but providing a welcome drama and excitement to the mix. Guest bassist, Rodney Whitaker‘s deep dish swing and melodic solo also added much to “Moten Swing”. Two Ellington pieces, “Paris Stairs” and 2 movements from “The Queens Suite” featured more muted and cloaked textures with the inimitable Dukian saxophone section quality.

Amongst this tonal mix was Victor Goines‘ labyrinthine and resonant clarinet wafting and threading through. This was especially welcome in a large hall that required no microphones for most in a band that has such a keen appreciation for dynamics. Ever present through all of this was the relentless yet eloquent and exciting solos and support of Dan Nimmer‘s piano.

Another heroic and successful visit to these shores by an orchestra that continues to make more inroads into the Barbican’s offerings and outreach. With the 2012 Olympics just around the corner we look forward to reaping the benefits that creative live music has to offer as well. Hows about a medal for that?


See a FEATURE on the JALC and its Barbican residency

The JALC Orchestra is now on a UK tour. Dates as follows

Bridgewater Hall Tuesday 22 June 2010, 7:30pm
Brighton Dome Thursday 24 June 2010, 7:30pm
Birmingham Symphony Hall Friday 25 June 2010, 7:30pm
The Sage Gateshead Saturday 26 June 2010, 7:30pm
Royal Concert Hall Glasgow Sunday 27 June 2010, 7:30pm

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