Review: Hidden Voices : Emergence of the American Sound at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

BBC Concert Orchestra and Nu Civilisation Orchestra, QEH, 24th Mar 2013
Photo Credit: Janine Irons
Hidden Voices : Emergence of the American Sound
BBC Concert Orchestra, conductor Keith Lockhart/ Nu Civilisation Orchestra
(Queen Elizabeth Hall, March 24th 2013. Part of America Weekend. Review by Quentin Bryar)


This concert in the year-long South Bank's The Rest Is Noise festival, based on Alex Ross's book of the same name got better and better, especially once the Nu Civilisation Orchestra and Duke Ellington got involved.

The Rest Is Noise aims to reveal the 20th century influences "on art in general and classical music in particular", so in the first half we had William Grant Still's first symphony -- a totally convincing and worthwhile piece from 1930, with a first movement based unashamedly on a 12-bar, and some lovely string writing in the other movements.This was very high quality music, and way better than the opening piece, The Dance In Place Congo, by the white composer Henry F. Gilbert, which, aside from a touch of syncopation and some dominant seventh harmonies, was about as far from Congo Square as you could get.

The second half was a different matter, with a buzz about the hall as Gary Crosby's Nu Civilisation Orchestra formed up. With the world-class rhythm section of Ben Burrell, Crosby and the superb Rod Youngs on drums, Musical Director Peter Edwards led the band through a medley of Ellington classics: The Mooche, Harlem Air Shaft, Mood Indigo, Black and Tan Fantasy and Juan Tizol's Caravan. These were subtly adapted from various versions of the originals and the result was pure jazz.

The band remained in situ for Duke Ellington/Luther Henderson's Harlem , and boosted the BBC Concert Orchestra in an excellent performance of what is now an established concert classic and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. It's a serious piece of music, of course -- easily the most substantial of the evening -- and the BBC Orchestra, particularly the clarinet and trombone soloists, were superb.

Much earlier, those who went to the pre-concert talk by Dr Catherine Tackley got a special treat. Her triple-A band comprised Nathanial Facey on alto, the singer Cherise Adams-Burnett, and Charlie Stacey on piano (previously featured on LondonJazz in THIS REVIEW) , who was particularly amazing on In A Mellow Tone.

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