REVIEW: Guildhall Studio Orchestra with Liane Carroll at Milton Court

"A richly enjoyable evening."
Liane Carroll at Milton Court

Guildhall Studio Orchestra with Liane Carroll
(Milton Court.. 10 January 2018. Review by Peter Jones)

Lucky old Guildhall School of Music and Drama: for the last four years they have had the wonderful 600-seater Milton Court concert hall to showcase their students’ work. The acoustics are perfect, the design is clean and modern, and although it feels large, it seats a modest 600, thus preserving a certain intimacy you don’t get from the next-door Barbican Hall.

The evening was mainly intended to provide a platform for the recently-formed Guildhall Studio Orchestra. It was Head of Jazz Malcolm Edmonstone who came up with the idea (see link below) for a student ensemble along the lines of the famous Dutch Metropole Orkest – one, in other words, capable of working in a wide variety of genres and contexts, including jazz. The inclusion of one of the School’s vocal teachers, Liane Carroll, gave the occasion a couple of extra dimensions: helping her to promote her recent album, and giving further exposure to the vocal students.

And so it was that the stage was crowded with musicians and singers, young and not-so-young: as well as Ms Carroll and Mr Edmonstone, there were guest appearances from drummer Ralph Salmins, singer Sara Colman and bass maestro (and teacher) Jules Jackson.

Carroll and Edmonstone share a love for the music of Donald Fagen and Steely Dan. I went along a few months ago for an evening of Guildhall music from, and inspired by, Fagen’s iconic album The Nightfly, and – sure enough – among tonight’s highlights was the gorgeous bittersweet Maxine, in which the bridge featured an impressive solo from singer Luca Manning. The arrangement featured a smaller subsection of the choir, which although not loud enough, sounded well-integrated and disciplined. And later, to close the show, we were treated to Fagen’s Walk Between the Raindrops, a long-time live favourite of Liane Carroll’s.

Laura Nyro is a rather forgotten figure these days, so it was great to hear a funked-up arrangement of her gospel-inflected song And When I Die, complete with fine solos courtesy of Sam Knight (alto sax), Jacob Cooper (trombone) and David Swan (synth). Ballads always sound particularly lush with a full orchestral backing. Carroll’s vocal on The Right to Love, a gorgeous tune by Lalo Schifrin, was illuminated by a soft, lyrical trumpet solo from Toby Brazier. It was followed in the second half by the equally gorgeous waltz-time Calgary Bay, sung by Sara Colman, with impressive solos by Adam McGloughlin (tenor) and Ed Rice (piano).

In short, this was a richly enjoyable evening, with a packed audience, and Malcolm Edmonstone’s elation at the end was plain for all to see.

LINKS: Preview of the Guildhall Studio Orchestra's debut with Dave Arch
The Nightfly at Milton Court
Liane Carroll at Milton Court in 2016

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