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Royal Concert Hall, 27th June 2010

The brochure said “Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra”. The ticket said “Wynton Marsalis”. The brochure was the more accurate: Marsalis may have been the driving force behind the orchestra, but he wasn’t the only, or even main, soloist. Indeed, “behind” was very much the word: he sat in the trumpet section at the back of the band. From my seat, fairly near the centre about two-thirds of the way back in the arena stalls, it wasn’t easy to see him.

The concert opened with a series of Duke Ellington pieces, ranging in time from the 1920s to the 1970s. Apart from the opening “The Mooch”, they were all rarely performed pieces which underscored just how much fine music Ellington wrote. (Well, “Jack the Bear” is justly famous on record, but this was the first time I’ve heard it played live). A very varied set followed, including Dizzy Gillespie’s “In the Land of Oo-bla-dee” (great Mary Lou Williams arrangement but rotten words), an imaginative reworking of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” which opened and closed with the band playing sheep noises on their horns, a couple of Coltrane tunes (“My Favorite Things” and “Alabama”) and finally, a track from the band’s new Spanish-tinged album “Vitoria Suite”.

Reading reviews of other dates from the JLCO’s tour (for instance the ones in Gateshead and Birmingham), they seem to have played different sets on different nights. I got the impression this was being treated as a homecoming gig for Joe Temperley (from the other side of that Atlantic, Glasgow’s pretty near Fife), and he got to play more solos than anyone else in the band, Marsalis included. Other notable solo contributions came from tenor player Walter Blanding and trombonist (and vocalist) Vincent Gardiner. Overall they were a very fine band – they sounded really relaxed and gave the impression that, while effortlessly good, they could still all step up a gear if they really had to.

As encores, we were treated to a couple of small group ballads from Wynton Marsalis and then from Joe Temperley (on bass clarinet).

Apparently after the gig Wynton Marsalis went upstairs and sat in with the Michael Janisch band who were playing in the Green Room. Euphbass has a report and some video.

There are reviews of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in both the Herald and the Scotsman.

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