04 April 2022


The theme was obviously Spain and related but I felt it was jazz. This was the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the program was called Sketches of Spain which says Miles to me and a track off Sketches of Spain, Solea, was on the program and so was Chick Corea Spain. But the first half had Iberian references from Debussy and a Ravel take on the Blues, which seemed strange and perhaps a bit unsatisfying even if Ravel was quoted as promoting this "popular music" and its players with their "frightening virtuosity". And there was Boccherini with a tune about the streets of Madrid and Bizet Carmen arranged by Rodion Shchedrin for his dancer wife Maya Pilsetskaya. But the jazz was confirmed in the second half by the presence of jazz literati Matt McMahon, Phil Slater, Brett Hirst and Jess Ciampa and that program of Miles and Chick, joined by a short Ave Maria in 8 parts played by the jazz quartet and four string parts and written by Tomas Luis de Victoria. I'd enjoyed the first half, especially for the Carmen, but I just grooved to the second half. Phil Slater's take on Miles was very satisfying and the Ave Maria was lovely (I like him: I did a de Victoria piece on The Pots Going Viral) but Spain had me blissed out. That fabulous theme, the complex and lengthy arrangement originally performed by CC with the London Symphony to win a Grammy award. I laughed at the string sections passing around and authentic jazz solo (in unison and not improvised obviously) and the rich and often dissonant harmonies in piano and a lovely long bass solo that obviously intrigued the ACO low end and Brett's effective pizz accompaniment and Phil's lines out front. The string accompaniment was a pleasure even if the improv that's at the heart of jazz was missing. But this was crossover and I admire musicians who are daring and exploratory enough to do it and the ACO felt the part. So I ended walking out with a smile on my face. Some classical mates were somewhat nonplussed but I thought it worked and, perhaps only in a jazzer's book, I thought Matt and mates were the heart and authenticity of it all. Not putting down the classical, but jazz and classical are different mediums requiring different skills, the hottest chops and reading in classical and the invention of improv and the feel of a groove in jazz. Different and both worthy but this was jazz territory and Matt and Phil and Brett and Jess blew a storm to my jazz ears. But nice all around and deeply fascinating.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra under Richard Tognetti (director, violin) played Miles Davis and Chick Corea and more at Llewellyn Hall with Matt McMahon (piano), Phil Slater (trumpet), Brett Hirst (bass) and Jess Ciampa (percussion).

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