Jazz review: Branford Marsalis and a night at the opera
Central Coast Express Advocate
22 Mar 10 @ 01:33pm by STEVE MOFFATT
Charlie Parkers favourite composer was Igor Stravinsky and there has always been some cross-pollination between the worlds of jazz and classical music.
Some of our great jazz players have gone all the way, performing and recording classical works. Wynton Marsalis led the charge with his best-selling Haydn trumpet concerto, followed closely by his older brother Branford. Keith Jarrett has been steadily working his way through the Bach and Handel keyboard catelogues and several prominent classical pianists have at least one jazz project in their discographies.
There was a strong classical influence in the middle of the 90-minute set by the Branford Marsalis Quartet at the Opera House when, despite struggling with a cracked reed, Marsaliss soprano saxophone entered the unmistakable sound world of Henry Purcell and his song, O Solitude, which he heard on a late-night FM station sung by English counter tenor Alfred Deller.
The spirit of J.S. Bach was evident in Joey Calderazzos beautifully unfolding sarabande-like solo in his self-penned The Blossom of Parting - a glorious celebration of melody building to an ecstatic climax with Marsaliss soprano, Eric Reviss bass and the drums of boy wonder Justin Faulkner lifting the hairs of the audiences neck.
But the spirit of Bird and, more particularly, John Coltrane were also present in this special evening of jazz - the third in the Opera Houses Full Swing series.
In The Crease, an original composition, and Thelonius Monks 52nd Street Story reminded us that Marsalis, for all his diversity, is still the greatest hard bop tenor soloist of his generation, playing with Parkers fierce concentration and effortless swing, exploring chords and expanding simple melody lines into an over-arching solo.
Marsalis is a communicator too, even if he seemed a little grumpy and travel-weary at times. He talks to his audience, jokes with his colleagues and, best of all, lets them have their night as well - for minutes at a time we were listening to a piano trio.
Faulkner, celebrating his 19th birthday - who knows where he might go musically over the next few decades? - was allowed two blistering solos, and some phrases of Happy Birthday as a bonus. Revis, no mean composer, had a comprehensive solo spot on his song Sphere, as well as a lovely meandering duet with Marsalis in The Blossom of Parting. And Calderazzo was given space for his formidable range of styles and moods, duelling gleefully with his boss.
The generosity extended also to the support act, the Melbourne-based Leigh Barker Trio with Barker on bass, the Monk-inspired piano of Tom Vincent and drummer Hugh Harvey whose opening set, after a flat and ill-chosen opening number, warmed the crowd with a quirky take on Confessin.
They were called up by Marsalis for the first of his encores, before his own sidemen returned for a barnstorming version of Irving Berlins Cheek To Cheek to close the night.
The Full Swing series concludes on Monday, May 3, with Ahmad Jamal. Bookings on 9250 7777 of go to sydneyoperahouse.com/jazz.
CONCERT: Branford Marsalis Quartet
WHERE: Opera House
WHEN: Friday, March 19