Grand Union Orchestra - On The Edge
(Wilton's Music Hall, London. Four nights, 21-24 November 2013. Review by Duncan Heining)
The Grand Union Orchestra is a celebration and never was this more clear than at the ensemble’s four night residency at Wilton’s Music Hall in late November. Featuring different sets each night and drawing on its vast pool of musical talent, GUO celebrated in song, in dance and in multi-cultural big band style the diversity of the music to be found in Britain and in London’s East End.
Strength in Depth? GUO have it in abundance, whether it is Indian violinist Jyotsna Srikanth, Bulgarian percussionist Lilia Iontcheva, Bengali tabla player Yousuf Ali Khan or jazzers such as Aussie saxophonist Louise Elliott, British alto star Chris Biscoe or Jamaican-British trumpeter Kevin Robinson. A tune or song can begin in New Orleans, samba down to Brazil before morphing into Township Jive. That’s how GUO celebrate jazz – no matter where it comes from on the globe, leader Tony Haynes will make it live and breathe afresh.
We danced on Thursday and Friday to Latin, West African and Caribbean rhythms and even to a Gypsy pulse courtesy of Roma virtuoso accordionist Ionel Mandache. We sang along on Saturday to the songs of past GUO shows as The Rhythm of Tides and If Paradise and swung like mad to Sunday’s night’s big band set.
GUO oozes commitment – not in some woolly, ‘make love not war’ or ‘love thy neighbour’ kind of way. These guys knows that what brings people together is something shared. It can be music. It may be through struggle. One thing’s sure the Grand Union Orchestra’s music makes you feel alive, makes you think and makes long for a better world.
SEE ALSO TONY HAYNES' PREVIEW OF THE FESTIVAL