Duw Duw, Just Peachy Records
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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.
Thursday 27 May 2010
Henry VIII is notorious as the play which burned down the original Globe when its thatched roof was set on fire by the cannon shot saluting the entrance of the King in an early scene. To modern taste, that disaster has come to look like a shrewd critical verdict on the play. It's no surprise that the reconstructed Globe has only now got round to presenting the play in a vivid, robust, and winningly well-conceived production by Mark Rosenblatt.
Wednesday 07 April 2010
Odds are that you will recognise 18-year-old Diana Vickers as a 2008 X Factor semi finalist, or perhaps you caught her well-received West End debut in the recent revival of Little Voice.
Friday 05 March 2010
The ailing fashion group Alexon has unveiled a £20m cash call to accelerate its growth plans, although it plans to close 42 loss-making stores over the next three years.
Sunday 21 February 2010
Intriguing, occasionally feisty yet lyrical interpretations of compositions by the increasingly influential Polish jazz and film composer Krzysztof Komeda (1931-69), one of Roman Polanski's key collaborators.
Friday 19 February 2010
Chaconne Brass continue to stretch the possibilities of the brass quintet on Dancing In The Dark with a broad, inventive programme. Cecilia MacDowall's "Tango Oscuro" is a suitably dark Piazzolla tribute, while trumpeter Mark Kesel's "Nachna" integrates Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari's tabla and Chaconne's delightful staccato interplay of horns around a cajoling, persuasive melody – something lacking in the longer, comparatively arid "Quintet op. 79" of Danish composer Vagn Holmboe. The standout piece here is "A Lullaby" by the ensemble's other trumpeter Torbjörn Hultmark, which uses live electronics and a backing-tape bricolage of ghostly voices as the foundation for a series of sparse, measured brass sonorities: an absorbing, lively experience.
Thursday 11 February 2010
Sunday 07 February 2010
Moray Low's memory of what happened on the pitch when he first came to Murrayfield for a Scotland-France game is somewhat hazy. "I was a kid with my dad, sitting in the corner up there," the Glasgow prop recalled, pointing towards the junction of the west and north stands. "I was only five and all these French people were shouting and cheering and blowing trumpets. I had a big French guy next to me smoking a cigar and I was scared of him. I wanted to go before the end."
Sunday 07 February 2010
Reissue of a rare 1977 fusion album by the shamanistic Cherry (1936-95), the Ornette Coleman Quartet trumpeter.
Sunday 17 January 2010
Bassist Moppa Elliot's NYC quartet offers a cute and comedic variant on the usual avant-garde, John Zorn-style deconstruction by playing catchy Blue Note bop and boogaloo-sounding themes.
Thursday 31 December 2009
There is, as defined by human behaviour as much as by the calendar, no other night like New Year's Eve. It is unique for all kinds of reasons; principally, of course, the symbolism of the old year receding into the past and the new year looming up ahead, with all that implies in terms of fresh starts, new regimes, and adieux to Benson & Hedges, or Scottish & Newcastle, or Ant & Dec, or whatever vices you have sworn to bury over the next 12 months.
Sunday 13 December 2009
More spiritual jazz from Manchester.
Friday 11 December 2009
Friday 04 December 2009
The real “Lion of Venice” here was Sir Colin Davis – 80-something going on 40-something and every inch the commander in chief as the mighty storm at the outset of Verdi’s Otello exploded from the Barbican platform.
Sunday 29 November 2009
Rain-streaked spiritual jazz from Manchester.
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