<< -- 2 -- Malcolm Miller THE FREEDOM OF JAZZ
At a formal level the work displays some of the features of the Baroque era, combining elements of the oratorio, orchestral suite and, most strikingly, the concerto grosso, in which the virtuoso concertino -- the LCJO -- is pitted in dialogue and combination with the larger symphony orchestra, with ingenious dovetailings of brass or woodwind. It is a very American work, one in which the joyful brilliance of the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra's many jazz idioms, interacts with the orchestra both as a classical and jazz medium. For example in the initial four movement section, the thrusting driving patterns of the music were infused with great energy and rich harmony, as in the overture 'Jubal Step'. One movement begins with Mahlerian waltz, while 'Wild Strumming of Fiddle' is a Coplandesque 'Hoedown' leading to a fizzing fugato reminiscent of Ned Rorem. Many of the textures recall Bernstein's swinging syntheses and big bands of the 40s and 50s; the orchestra often comments on and dovetails into the jazz soloists who then go off on their own; at one point the orchestra is also a brilliant big band all on its own.
There were many highlights to this exuberant performance in which the always lucid Kurt Masur seemed to be gradually skipping more and more to the LCJO's beat and riff, and the audience increased in a warm responses to each new jazz solo sandwiched between orchestral textures. Most impressive was Marsalis's own, in 'Save Us', sharing his inimitable trumpet playing which makes the instrument sound almost vocal, high in its register, swoops and glissandos and pure-toned high notes, shaped into a dreamy world of its own; and his always audible interjections into the lively tutti-choral movements added vital spice; there were several other notable solos, one for trombone ending on an incredibly pure high note, various sax solos and a witty duet for principal orchestral violin and principal cellist, accompanied by piano and bass. The piano solo was a fantastic display of musicianship, sophisticated and subtle in its blues harmony and extended phrases, while final limelight was reserved for the superb drummer who throughout was a fine partner to the team of percussionists of the London Philharmonic who visibly enjoyed their syncopated colours on various instruments including guiro, slapsticks and cymbals.
Copyright © 4 October 2005
Malcolm Miller, London UK