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Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis - QPAC

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by John Andrew (subscribe)
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The magic is still strong

The photograph on the program and the posters is of an urbanely suited Wynton Marsalis, America's first Pulitzer winning jazz composer, trumpet at the ready.

Which is why it was a surprise when the fifteen strong band trouped on stage, and it turned out that a figure in the back row was Wynton Marsalis.

Not that he altogether took a back seat.

Most of the pieces were introduced by him spontaneously and fluently, with self-deprecating wit.

And he did play (of which more later) but what he also did was to spread the joy around.

And what a superb group of musicians to share with. Entirely in the spirit of jazz, all the musicians were engaged even when they weren't playing one large gentleman in the front row channelling the music to virtually every bone in his body. And also in the spirit of jazz said gentleman seemed to dissolve in laughter at one point, and Marsalis explained that he had paused before taking over a riff and another musician had mischievously stolen his spot. Later in the show, another burst of laughter suggested he had stolen it back.

Works like "joy", "inspired improvisation", "infectious rhythm", come to mind.

It was palpable that the audience and the performers were melded together on an irresistible roller-coaster of coruscating notes where musicians ranging from a trombonist in his twenties to a saxophonist in his seventies joined together as one. We may never hear their like again unless they can be persuaded not to wait another twenty years before they come back.

In the first half Dizzy Gillespie's "Mojo" Ellington's "Lady of the Lavender Mist" Dave Buebeck's "Strange Meadowlark" and "Upstage Rhumba" Dizzy Gillespie's "Camille" and Benny Goodman's "I'm coming Virginia" .

Duke Ellington's "Portrait of Louis Armstrong" was a stomping, celebratory, nostalgic opening to the second half and it alone was worth the admission. This was followed by Ellington's Grammy-winning "Far East Suite" where Sam Chess' trombone deservedly drove the audience to their feet.

Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" came next. Ted Norton (horn) and Dan Nimmer (piano) featured on Fletcher Henderson's "Down South Camp Meeting".

Camille Thurman at this point stole the show with an extended piece on tenor and soprano saxophones and clarinet - this woman is a wonder - but I have one regret. The program notes say "many have praised he vocal abilities to the likeness of Ella Fitzgerald" and she didn't get the chance to sing.

But that is a small cavil about an evening that it was a privilege to attend.

And the encore - featuring Marsalis himself - showcased his virtuosity in a fitting footnote to an unforgettable show.

As a grey-beard who has been attending QPAC for many years, it is a joy to see it going from strength to strength, and attracting the best of the best.

Wynton Marsalis is Jazz royalty and it was a privilege to hear both him and the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra.

Please come back soon.
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Why? a unique opportunity : unforgettable
When: 4-6 March
Where: QPAC Concert Hall
Cost: $99 - $149
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