Classical: Swinging with Grieg

Concert; LINCOLN CENTER JAZZ ORCHESTRA/ WYNTON MARSALIS THE BARBICAN LONDON

CROSSING THE stylistic divide from hot jazz to so-called classical music is yesterday's news. Gershwin started the ball rolling before the Second World War, and years later Leonard Bernstein joined forces with Louis Armstrong. And that was just that start of it. Now ace-trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is plying his trade with all manner of innovative gestures, centring this year on the century-old genius of Duke Ellington. Tuesday's Barbican concert served us Ellington more or less neat (excepting for "Mood Indigo", where Marsalis became his inimitable self), but on Wednesday night the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra joined forces with the London Symphony Orchestra for a two-hour programme that settled their differences once and for all. The 1998 winner of the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition, Paul Mann, conducted, and the first half alternated movements from Grieg's verdant Peer Gynt with Ellington's ochre-tinted arrangements of the same music.

Mann's suggestion of "a musical juxtaposition" rather than "a musical duel" was justified, except that there was rather more to the contrast than a change of idiom. Ellington's work takes Grieg as his starting point, playing on basic themes and harmonies, then setting off on his own individualistic trail. "Morning" becomes sand-brushed and sultry (appropriate enough for an evocation of the Sahara) and "Solvejg's Song" shifts from sad soliloquy to swing.

Marsalis explained how the blues traditionally tries to conquer grief by "surviving" in style, which would no doubt have interested Grieg. As for the similarities, there's the tune - and that's about it. Mann drew a warm-textured performance from the LSO's strings for "The Death of Ase", while Marsalis intensified the climax with touching narration, but when Ellington took over, a tender dialogue with dying became a Harlem funeral procession. "Anitra's Dance" swung unashamedly; if Grieg had been in the hall of this Mountain King, Norwegian music would have changed forever. Mann and the LSO followed with a somewhat "squarer" band of trolls, and the boys from Lincoln Center raised the alarm with vigorous shouting.

The concert's second half featured "fusion" Ellington arrangements that suggested a trip to Harlem made via Pinewood Studios and the London Palladium. Don't get me wrong: the concept itself is laudable enough and, given adequate time, could even work. But the manifest encounter between the LCJO and LSO reminded me of the polite enthusiasm that strangers express when they have just met but aren't quite sure what to say. It is naive to imagine that collaborating bands take any less time to "bed in" than individual players who need to acclimatise or adapt to each other.

"Afro Bossa (Bula)" approximated an abbreviated Bolero and "Blue in Blueprint" wouldn't have been out of place in a Pink Panther movie. "Happy Go Lucky Local" started out like the soundtrack to Psycho, and as for "A Tone Parallel to Harlem", the pounding heart of Ellington's original seemed heavily sedated. There were happy moments when an LSO trombonist was answered by a LCJO counterpart, or an orchestral bassist gave Lincoln Center's Rodney Whitaker a taste of his own medicine; but in other respects the clash of styles was too incongruous. Sorry, but some traditions take generations to blend and Wednesday night's second half was something of a generation gap in sound.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works