Jazz: Mission: accomplished

Lalo Schifrin with the

BBC Big Band

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

The prolific Argentinian-born jazz and film composer, Lalo Schifrin, will for ever be best known for one piece. The lolloping additive rhythm of his theme to Mission: Impossible is the perfect corollary to the tune's expert marriage of the ethereal (mysterious flutes chromatically elaborating the basic blues progression) and the visceral (the thumping bassline and brass stabs) - a joyous fusion characteristic of much of his Sunday-night concert with the BBC Big Band.

Creamy sax-and-horn harmonies over fast backings ("Street Lights") or splendidly lazy swing ("Blues For Basie") would give way in the first half's assorted pieces to huge, randy tutti, delicate false fade-outs, and several great dissonant endings. As compere and conductor, Schifrin came across like a slimmer, more cultured avatar of Julio Iglesias, with a seductive wit. Introducing the theme from Bullitt, for example, he told us sadly: "I feel responsible for the demolition of thousands of cars, because this film started the trend for car chases ..."

When he ambled over to the piano, on the other hand, it became clear why Dizzy Gillespie hired him as pianist and arranger in 1958: his playing was an inventive mix of bubbling improvisations, and polyrhythmic chordal interludes. The BBC Big Band blew consistently both expansive and breathtakingly tight, well deserving Schifrin's warm tribute: "I told my wife that for my next birthday I want this band as a gift."

The concert's main event was the second-half performance of Schifrin's five-part jazz suite, Gillespiana, composed for his old boss. The orchestration was, in Schifrin's own words, a "jazz quintet surrounded by a brass band", so off went the massed saxes and on came Australian trumpeter James Morrison and the young British musician Nigel Hitchcock, doubling alto sax and flute. A boppish prelude gave way to a deliciously contemplative blues, whose opening was all melancholic slides and slaps by the terrific bassist Roy Babbington, while muted trumpets stole into the soundscape like city lights in an early-morning haze. The third section, "Pan-Americana", was all Latin raunch, and then "Africana" melded elephantine blarings to a monster ground bass - for the first time, Schifrin was moved to hit the piano rather than nonchalantly caressing it.

Throughout, the soloists had plenty of opportunities to show off. Hitchcock, not often a convincing flautist, did little more on alto than persistently demonstrate the speediness of his fingers. But Morrison was powerfully good, teasing moaning, melodic lines from the very bottom register and then throwing little upward doits on the end of thrilling high notes. The final section, "Toccata", again used a constant bass riff under a breakneck bouncy tempo for a wild synthesis of all that had gone before.

Steven Poole

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

    Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones