|Arild Andersen - from artist website|
Arild Andersen Sextet
(Kings Place, 21st November. 2015 EFG LJF. Review by Jon Turney)
Jazz celebrates its past in lots of different ways. This festival alone had explorations of the music of Paul Whiteman, Bill Evans, a new look at The Birth of the Cool and, indeed, a close look at Charles Mingus’ Ah Um (reviewed here).
This evening was a little different, though: a nod to just one performance. One of the great Mingus sextets visited Oslo when the European jazz circuit was just getting going in 1964, and living bass legend Arild Andersen put together a matching ensemble to mark that show’s 50th anniversary. They came to London a year on to reprise at least some of the concert.
There were a couple of ways of hearing this. You can still watch or listen to the entire original Mingus concert, and several others from the same year. It’s hard, then, not to compare this band with that one. But that ends badly. Of course we were not getting to hear one of the greatest ever jazz composers, nor revelling in Eric Dolphy, Clifford Jordan and Jaki Byard in their prime responding to his brilliant playing and composing, and his volcanic temperament.
Ask instead, was the music good tonight? Well, these tunes – So Long Eric, Orange was the Colour…, Better Get it In Your Soul, Fables of Faubus – are nearly everyone’s favourites. The sonority of the sextet was a good match for the canonical performances, and it is always splendid to hear them brought to life in concert. The ensemble arrangements were carried off beautifully, even on the fiendish All the Things You Could Be By Now if Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother. And the solos, shorter than they would have been fifty years ago, were mostly great – especially those featuring trumpeter Eivind Lønning and two or three magisterial excursions from Andersen himself, retaining all the depth of the bass even with amplification cranked well up in the mix. Andersen also meshed perfectly with drummer Gard Nilssen, reproducing that almost-too-on-top-of- the-beat urgency that was Mingus and Danny Richmond’s trademark. The other soloists – Erlend Slettevold on piano along with Petter Wettke and Klaus Holm on reeds - did good work throughout, but allowed a few more thoughts of their illustrious forebears to creep back in. It must, let’s face it, be pretty well impossible to play bass clarinet on a tune people have heard Eric Dolphy solo on and leave the listener satisfied, as impossible as matching the impact the original band must have had when they hit Oslo all those years ago.
A tad tantalising, overall, then? Certainly. But still very enjoyable in its own right as a one-off tribute to the old masters.