Review: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Barbican Hall

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
(Barbican Hall, 2nd July 2014.Review by Frank Griffith)

The final concert of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's UK tour presented a unifying theme, tunes from Blue Note albums in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the label. The house was packed (as usual) and was possibly the highlight event of the tour judging by the audience response - they received several standing ovations.

Some key factors that help to create this are the interweaving of clean and prescriptive ensemble playing, dramatic soloing over a a complete grasp of dynamics throughout the band. The rhythm section plays a major role in this with Ali Jackson's hugely swinging, yet never heavy-handed or overbearing drums calling attention to themselves. Situated snugly betwixt the leader and fourth trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, and bassist Carlos Henriques while overlooking Dan Nimmer's piano, Ali clearly has the best seat in the house. His pervasive eye contact with his rhythmates, plus a cheerleading ebullience, go a long way to creating the winning onstage atmostphere.

The band is known for its bevy of outstanding soloists. Three outstanding Brits taking spectacular solo turns. Guest alto saxist Nathaniel Facey was featured on Dave Berger's fine arrangement of the late Horace Silver's Peace and carried it off brilliantly. Starting off in a lyrical and pensive mood, he developed wondrously, intensifying melodic complexity, yet never losing site of the poignancy and pathos of this jazz classic's title. Another guest, vibraphonist, Lewis Wright, shone brightly on Carlos Henriques treatment of Silver's classic, Senor Blues. While his entrance did not come into well late in the arrangement it was well worth waiting for. His application of several layers of polyrhythms couple with a rich demonstration of harmonic choices elicited nodding appreciations and awed looks from the band-members. Oh, and the crowd dug it too.

The sprightly and well dressed lads (on which Wynton commented on more than once) also guested on on JLCO altoist, Ted Nash's exhilarating take on Joe Henderson's Inner Urge. Not to be outdone, the third Brit, Norwich born and bred trombonist, Elliot Mason, acquitted himself well on his solo on this tune as well, as he also did on Victor Goines' striking arrangement of Woody Shaw's The Moontrane. Elliot has been a permanent member of the JLCO since 2007.

A scintillating final bow of a heroic and successful UK tour. A Barbican residency in 2016 is confirmed.

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