REVIEW: London Jazz Orchestra with Brigitte Beraha and guest Vincent Gardner at the Vortex

L-R: Stuart Hall (guitar), Brigitte Beraha (vocal), Alec Dankworth (bass)
guest Vincent Gardner of JALC (trombone)

London Jazz Orchestra with Brigitte Beraha and guest Vincent Gardner
(Vortex, 10th Janusry 2016. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

I lost count of the number of premiere performances this afternoon. The London Jazz Orchestra’s monthly residence at the Vortex is on of those regular events by a constantlycreative group of players who also write music. It happens quietly, in front of a small  audience, but throughout its history of more than two decades LJO has brought a vast collection of new works into being. Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor and Pete Saberton were all writer-player-members. It is the kind of organisation for whose astonishing cumulative achievement – perhaps one day? – the rules of the British Composer Awards should be skewed.

On this occasion, the presence of a solo vocalist unparalleled in speed of uptake of new material, in reading ability, and in sheer virtuosity Brigitte Beraha had inspired quite a few new compositions from among others saxophonist Josephine Davies and Stuart Hall.

Beraha’s versatility and expressive range were perhaps seen at their most complete in the juxtaposition of two completely contrasted works. After a powerful, angular, angry new composition by Martin Hathaway entitled The Silent Assasins, which had demanded all kinds of extended vocal pyrotechnics, came the harmonically perfumed lushness of Pete Hurt’s arrangement of Moonlight in Vermont. Beraha was also featured as composer of her own new work, Some Time in a measured, steady 5/4, with all variety of creative fills from drummer Paul Clarvis.

The band also invited guest trombonist Vincent Gardner, a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to the stand for the closing numbers. Gardner is over here for the educational projects which are currently in preparation, with NYJO, the NYJO Academy and the Young Jazz East Big Band in anticipation of the full JALC orchestra’s visit to the Barbican in mid-February

He soloed on Scott Stroman’s busy chart written in Miami in the 1980s of Never Never will I Marry, and the closer, Charles Mingus’ Strollin’, in an arrangement for full band by Scott Stroman, which brought to the fore the powerful, commanding playing of bassist Alec Dankworth.

The next monthly LJO gig is on February 14th, preceded by an opening set from the Barbican Young Jazz East Big Band.

Categories: miscellaneous

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