October 3, 2010

Bleating Sheep and Braggin’ Brass

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“We don’t need to leave anybody behind to swing!” If bandleader Wynton Marsalis’ declaration sounded like a tall order, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) certainly had much to brag about. JLCO’s second stop on its Fall 2010 tour held something for everyone. The 15-man orchestra strutted through nursery rhymes and modern art pieces, along with sparkling nods to jazz giants Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

The orchestra’s distinct chemistry and humor left the 1,275-strong crowd rapturous. Saxophonist Sherman Irby’s composition “Baa Baa Black Sheep” opened with instrumental wailing that uncannily resembled bleating sheep and drew delighted laughter from the audience. Everyone seemed determined to have fun.

The rousing clave beat of “2-3’s Adventure,” composed by bassist Carlos Henriquez, set band and audience members swaying and clapping. It was clearly a vivid articulation of JLCO’s motto, “bringing people together through swing.”

Brilliant musicianship and spontaneity made for a stunning night. The auditorium went wild when Cornell President David Skorton “auditioned,” bravely playing the flute along with JLCO before thanking Cornell benefactors Robert and Helen Appel for their support of the concert.

Equally surprising was saxophonist Ted Nash’s interpretation of Salvador Dali’s work, based on JLCO’s collaboration with New York’s Museum of Modern Art. A surreal landscape recalling the suspense of dark, twisting alleys was evoked by the 13-8 tempo. The echoed melodies played by trumpeter Marcus Printup and Ted Nash was nothing less than surreal.

The musicians also paid homage to Ellington, whom Marsalis hailed as “a national treasure of inestimable greatness” for displaying virtuosity every night in the heart of the Great Depression. Their shimmering rendition of Ellington’s 1938 recording, “Braggin’ Brass” was in its own right legendary.

Original Author: Daveen Koh