Hamer Hall, Melbourne Arts Centre
Wynton Marsalis is widely recognised as a wonderful trumpet player but he still gets a bad rap. All those high falutin, high end, semi-corporate gigs. Very worthy in his quest to preserve and educate on the great traditions of jazz but just a bit too earnest and a bit too well scrubbed. Then there are all the collaborations with artists from various fields. I dialed him up on YouTube and what comes up – Wynton and Clapton doing Layla. For fuck’s sake!
But I bought a ticket so what’s the thinking? Well his playing, his tone is wonderful. He has brought over the Jazz Lincoln Orchestra and this collaboration with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra should be interesting.
My hopes were raised when a friend of a friend who was in the percussion section of the orchestra was in raptures over the rehearsals. How WM explained what he wanted, the fact that he just sat down chatting “such a lovely humble person”.
Well humble he was I tell ya. About 3 solos the entire night and all from 4 rows back in the JLO where you could only see the top of his forehead bobbing along. Trombone and clarinetists came up to a standing mike for extended solos but not the bloke whose name comes up first on the bill. So that was a piss off.
Now, the music. The first half was the JLO with the MSO. Some early jazz, a section of Ellington’s Far East Suite and some other pretty good jazz / classical quasi-cinematic pieces. Then after the interval it’s the full monty. Crikey. There were well over 20 violinists alone and close to 100 musicians on stage as they performed Marsalis’s Jungle Suite which is an ode to New York City. OK , I sort of get what he was tring to do but as far as musical flow it was a turkey too much of everything, not enough of anything. It seemed like everyone had to get a turn. Peep peep over there, parp parp there, boop boop….I am sure it was a wonderful experience for the orchestra but I found myself thinking about my review for the blog so uncaptivating was the music. I also got to thinking about classical orchestras and these collaborations. I mean, how often do these things work. Yes, there are fine examples of orchestras that swing. See Evans Gil, or Basie , Ellington etc but not classical orchestras. They just don’t swing.
Having said all this there was a final piece before the encore that was worth the price of admission alone. How can I describe it? A long continuous drone by that mass of violins and maybe the cellos too while Wynton, still with the top of head visible only was making these simply incredible sounds on the trumpet. It would have been great to see what he was doing. It sounded like a succession of elephant roars. Now I’ve been up close and personal with a number of elephants and this sounds had all that power but tuneful at the same time while the orchestra droned on. It was just stunning. As it finished the person behind me quietly said “wow”. Wow indeed.
A wide range demographically and gender-wise.
It made me think..
Next time I see [insert name] with [insert name] symphony orchestra I’m running in the opposite direction.