REVIEW: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Cambridge Corn Exchange

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
(Corn Exchange, Cambridge. 21st June 2014. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's programme for its current UK tour - dates below -  presents as its unifying theme arrangements of tunes from Blue Note albums, using the pretext of the Blue Note 75th to re-visit and re-imagine a part of the label's heritage, in a similar way to that which classical music uses anniversaries to drive programming.

Most of the arrangements are by eight current band members, of the fifteen who are touring. The tour repertoire is selected from a total of thirty tunes. New arrangements are also being added all the time - tonight there was a wholly new arrangement of Dexter Gordon's ballad Ernie's Tune by Sherman Irby, a feature for JLCO's pair of wonderfully full-toned and well contrasted tenor saxophonists Victor Goines and Walter Blanding.

There are also charts from the early days of JLCO (1988-1994) when David Berger was writing for and conducting the band. Berger's arrangement of Peace from Blowin' The Blues Away was played as a poignant tribute to Horace Silver. It has gorgeously lush textures. Trumpeter Ryan Kisor stated each iteration of the opening of the theme with phrasing to die for; this performance was a definite high-point of the evening. Marsalis told of a fond memory of working with Horace Silver. Silver had come in as an examiner in the nationwide Essentially Ellington high school band competition. The much-missed pianist and composer maintains the distinction of having been the harshest marker. Ever.

I also enjoyed Ted Nash's re-imagining of Wayne Shorter's Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, gloriously revelling in the sound of the full band, giving the masterful drummer Ali Jackson plenty of opportunity to challenge and spur on the soloists, and leaving room for subtle and sinuous trombone counter-melodies. Great piece.

Carlos Henriquez' arrangement of Horace Silver's Senor Blues was this evening's closer - it had opened the tour in Harrogate. It gave pianist Dan Nimmer a chance to shine. It also showed the superb way in which Ali Jackson manoeuvres the band seamlessly from one tempo to another. At one point Marsalis talked about the "Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, conducted by Ali Jackson." It is a very smart remark with a sort of Nietzschen rather than a literal truth about it.

Others will disagree, but I did feel that there was unevenness in the quality of the arrangements. It brought me back to thoughts of the best big band album I have heard this year, the SNJO album American Adventure reviewed here . The arrangements on that album, by the likes of Fred Sturm and Geoffrey Keezer simply have more substance and more oomph than some of what I was hearing tonight.

That said, a virtually full 1,100-capacity Corn Exchange on the day Cambridge is also in thrall to its Midsummer Fair is very impressive - the whole downstairs section gave a standing ovation...That and Marcus Printup's unbelievably powerful, and powerfully constructed solo on Free For All - these are the memories to keep from a very fine gig.

First Set

Appointment in Ghana - Jackie McLean Arr. WyntonMarsalis
Fee Fi Fo Fum - Wayne Shorter Arr. Ted Nash
The Moontrane - Woody Shaw Arr. Victor Goines
Peace - Horace Silver Arr. David Berger
Free For All - Wayne Shorter Arr. WyntonMarsalis

Second Set

The Thespian - Freddie Redd Arr. Vincent Gardner
Search for Peace - McCoy Tyner Arr. ChrisCrenshaw
Riot - Herbie Hancock Arr. Sherman Irby
Ernie's Tune - Dexter Gordon Arr. Sherman Irby
Senor Blues - Horace Silver Arr. Carlos Henriquez


Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printup, Ryan Kisor - Trumpets
Chris Crenshaw, Vincent Gardner, Elliot Mason - Trombones
Victor Goines, Ted Nash, Walter Blanding, Sherman Irby, Paul Nedzela - Saxophones
Carlos Henriquez - Bass
Ali Jackson - Drums
Dan Nimmer - piano

Remaining Tour Dates


Sunday 22 June | 7:30PM / BASINGSTOKE The Anvil

Monday 23 June | 7:30PM / MANCHESTER Bridgewater Hall

Tuesday 24 June | 7:30PM BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall

Thursday 26 June | 7:30PM / BRISTOL Colston Hall

Friday 27 June | 7:30PM / EDINBURGH Usher Hall


Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis & Sachal Jazz Ensemble
Music from Pakistan
Monday 30 June 2014 / 20:00, Barbican Hall / Tickets £20-35 Find out more

Jazz Inspirations: Wynton Marsalis in Converstion / With Young Jazz East Big Band 
Tuesday 1 July 2014 / 18:30, Barbican Hall /Tickets £5 /Find out more

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guests
The Best of Blue Note Records
Wednesday 2 July / 19:30, Barbican Hall / Tickets £20-35  / Find out more


  1. I think your comparison to SNJO is telling. Whenever I have seen JALCO, there has been a coolness to their approach, which contrasts to the exuberance of the SNJO (whom I have seen much more often!).

    I don't know if it is down to the arrangers or the direction, or perhaps an approach to the reporatory as somewhat sacrosanct?

    I'm seeing JALCO in a couple of days time; I'll let you know what I think!

  2. Much the same sass you, I'd say...