Concert Review 4 for the Stanford Jazz Orchestra

Earlier this evening, I made the trip across campus to listen to the Stanford Jazz Orchestra perform with guest artist Jon Faddis. Having heard him play two days before in class, I already knew that he could play just like Dizzy, but I was anxious to hear him play in an ensemble.
The first piece, “Manteca,” was straight out of Dizzy’s songbook, and I honestly could’ve closed my eyes and seen Dizzy standing there playing the exact same thing. The same high trumpet passages came just as rapidly as in the recording, and the larger orchestra balanced it well by keeping up and being just as bright. The piano solo provided a good contrast to the trumpet solo and managed to fit in quite well.
One aspect that surprised me in the performance was the amount of communication going on on-stage. Perhaps it’s part of Jon’s personality, but the transitions between solos and direction were more than I expected. That sort of impromptu judgment seems more situated in smaller combo setting than larger sets. Seeing as improvisation is an important part to jazz, however, it makes sense that even that doesn’t change based on the size of the ensemble.
The performance of “‘Round Midnight” was just as fun as I was hoping. Having listened to several different recordings of it from Monk himself, Miles Davis, and the Bill Holman Band, I was familiar with the number of interpretations and arrangements of the piece. Unlike some songs that have a definitive recording, I knew I was going to hear something new, and I enjoyed it. The alto sax against trombone sounded great, and the rest of the orchestra blended very well. The solos seemed to mostly match the melody closely, which still sounded great. Instead of playing off the chords, the soloists seemed to be playing around with the melody.
The last song before going into Jon’s songs was “A Night in Tunisia,” another classic Dizzy piece. There was some instability in the beginning as the tempo might have started slightly too quickly, but the rhythm section quickly regrouped and provided a solid beat for the rest of it. I thought the choice of trombone over trumpet on the head was great, though I imagine it’s significantly more difficult to get through the technique on trombone. Leland’s bass solo was great, and Bill Bell fit into the ensemble immediately. Being a song I’ve heard many times, I was looking forward to something good, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The rest of the pieces written by Jon seemed to covered a wide range of genres while still having that same feel. While “Waltz for My Father and Brothers” sounded like something Frank Sinatra might sing, “Hunters and Gatherers” sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. The arrangements all had great balance between the soloist and the orchestra. Being less familiar with these pieces, I can’t compare them as well to other recordings or pieces.
The last piece before the encore, “Teranga,” was the most notable to me. More obviously than any of the others, this song had a foreign influence, and having the percussionist basically made it possible. Although I’ve never heard flute and trumpet in unison on a solo, the two distinct timbres of the brighter trumpet and more lyrical flute provided great contrast. And to cap it off, we even got a surprise solo from the director. Finishing on that, I thought the encore was the right choice as I wanted to hear more, and having the trumpets featured on “Intimacy of the Blues” fitted perfectly.

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