The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at Royce Hall

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Royce

Hall is packed tonight and available tickets were in a very short

supply for this group of extraordinary young players. This is the first

time that I have seen the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra perform and I

am quite interested to get a taste of the buzz. Leading the band from

the rear, in the trumpet section of course, was none other than the

world famous, youthful, iconoclastic figure for jazz, education and the

torch bearer for tradition, Mr. Wynton Marsalis. This is an orchestra

with youth on its side. They are a number of young technicians that

clearly are immersed in the sound, style and classical tradition of big

band music.

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Benny Carter, an adored composer of Wynton’s and

someone who has conducted the band himself on a few occasions, is

remembered with a couple of his compositions performed by the

orchestra. Mary Lou Williams is another one of those composers not to

be forgotten. She wrote many compositions for Duke Ellington and many

others, sometimes even composing music on a paper napkin. The LCJO

performs Mary’s, “Big Jim’s Blues” which was written for Harry “Big

Jim” Lawson, a trumpet player in the big bands back in the 30’s and

40’s.

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This was one of Mary’s soulful blues tunes indeed.

Wynton showcases his attachment to the soul and roots of the blues as

he squeals hollers and slings the sound of his horn like a brotha

coming out of a bar after his woman done left him fo anotha man. Now

dats da blues! He captured all of the sensibilities and emotion that I

am sure that Mary expressed in her original composition.

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Ron Westray’s trombone sang in the New Orleans

style swingin’ blues tone with the plunger as his faithful companion.

Each of these players in the LCJO seems to really love a blues. They

are all sporting big smiles and having big fun as their partners in

crime finish a solo.

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Holding true to the tradition of the suit and tie,

the LCJO looks good as Wynton expounds upon the history of each

composer with grace and humor. Usually, young players come into a band

to establish a name for themselves and then breakout on their own.

However, many of these players already have a number of albums to their

name so being a member of the LCJO is strictly for the love of the

music.

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Another Mary Lou Williams composition, “The Foggy

Bottom” swung with Aaron Gold berg on piano, Carlos Enriquez on bass

and Victor Goines on Tenor each telling stories and having

conversations on their instruments. Intelligent humor, good form and

classic jazz music performed to perfection is how the LCJO does their

thing. Herlin Riley sings the blues while maintaining a rhythmic beat

on drums as the LCJO repeats his phrases in unison. The idea is to put

you in touch and make you once again appreciate the fine quality of

classic traditional nostalgia and it works!

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The LCJO was formed by the remaining members of

the Duke Ellington Orchestra along with the Wynton Marsalis Septet. The

old school coming together and passing on the art to the new school to

preserve the tradition of the art of the classic jazz orchestra. In

honor of the great Duke, the LCJO performed, “Black, Brown and Beige”

in a three part suite.

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Most of the members of the orchestra were raised

in musical families. Alto player Ted Nash brought his father Dick Nash

on stage to do an alto and trombone arrangement of “All the Things You

Are” with the orchestra.

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The evening concluded with John Coltrane’s “A Love

Supreme” with all for movements; Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance

and Psalm. This was the definite highlight of the evening. The piece

was dedicated to Elvin Jones who had an opportunity to witness the LCJO

perform the classic composition. Those four notes on the bass always

elate the most dynamic emotion for what is to come. The suite was

arranged so that everyone in the band played those famous four notes in

succession. Carlos Henriquez got a chance to creatively express himself

with harmonics during the transition from Acknowledgement to

Resolution. Wes “Warmdaddy” Anderson, Aaron Goldberg, Wynton Marsalis

and Herlin Riley really added that virtuosic ingenuity to Trane’s

masterpiece! Victor Goines was a master technician on soprano. I love

provocative self expression and any music by John Coltrane calls for

that. “A Love Supreme” once again makes my evening a complete success!

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LeRoy Downs

 

 

 

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