Wynton Marsalis & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Hackney Empire, London
Wednesday 23 June 2010
Given the crippling costs of keeping 15 musicians in gainful employ, big bands are largely a thing of the past. But this sumptuous performance by Wynton Marsalis's stellar unit was a reminder that an orchestra remains a vital resource to any jazz musician. It offers both power and precision. Since the early 80s the New Orleans trumpeter has been exploring and extending the heritage of acoustic jazz, using 30s swing, 40s bebop and 50s post-bop as templates for his own creations and this final night of a five-day residency at various venues in London presented a panorama of those vocabularies. There were arrangements of legends like Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson and Jackie McLean and there were also original pieces by JALCO members such as saxophonist Ted Nash. His Dali suite, set in the tripwire time signature of 13/8, was a highlight for the intoxicating swirl of the horns, which culminated in Nash's alto becoming a dramatic echo to a stabbing improvisation by trumpeter Marcus Printup.
However, the presence of British guest musicians also raised the bar. Vibraphonist Jim Hart, tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint and pianist Julian Joseph all took hard swinging solos and vocalist Cleveland Watkiss was imperious on an express train rendition of McLean's "Appointment in Ghana", in which his scat choruses revealed a timbral richness and phrasal trickery that had the horn players nodding in approval. In a delicious passage of his solo, Watkiss quoted the first part of the theme of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys" at lightning speed before twisting its harmony in an entirely new direction. Yet what became apparent throughout the evening was the relevance of big band music to other genres, simply because of its enormous sonic range.
On slow passages the ornate, rippling textures evoked ambient music, on faster numbers, as the brass plunged deep into the low register, there was funk aplenty, and when the whole ensemble was in full flow, there was a soundtrack in search of a movie. Decked out in sharp suits and seated in three rows under the Hackney Empire's proscenium arch, Marsalis's orchestra indeed offered a big-screen spectacle for eyes and ears alike.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 Optical illusion turns blue demon into brunette
- 4 Right to die: Belgian doctors rule depressed 24-year-old woman has right to end her life
- 5 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
Top 20 films that make you feel good
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
19 British bands signed to indie labels are getting government grants to help them make it big abroad
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
What if Nicolas Cage played every character in Game of Thrones?
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts