Monday, February 16, 2015


Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Of the fifteen members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, nine pitch in regularly with arranging music the orchestra plays. Thus giving it the ability to put together a show in a week. When you get to hear the meticulously arranged compositions like the ones the orchestra played Sunday afternoon at their annual concert for the University Musical Society’s jazz series at Hill Auditorium, you’d believe the members responsible for the arrangements spent way more than a week perfecting the arrangements.

The one hour and forty-five minute concert the orchestra put on Sunday was the best in recent years. The orchestra, under the direction of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, featured some of the works of Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck. 

The orchestra didn't play a group of Mingus numbers, for example, followed by a batch of Ellington numbers. Instead, the compositions were interspersed, which gave the overall presentation a freer structure.

The orchestra opened with “Dizzy Moods,” composed by Mingus as an nod to Gillespie. Then the orchestra moved into Ellington’s “Oclupaca” a movement from his “Latin American Suite” and Gillespie’s “Fiesta Mojo,” a samba the orchestra added a lot of swing to.

The concert switched into a thoughtful and somber state when the orchestra played Marsalis' arrangement of Coltrane’s “Alabama”. The touching  featured solo by saxophonist Paul Nedzela could have caused a convict to weep. The orchestra showed they’re more than bloodthirsty swingers.

They ventured way out their swing comfort zone on Mingus’ “Los Mariachis (The Street Musicians)”. This number had more changes than a fashion show. The orchestra played each seamlessly. 

The standout soloists here were bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Ali Jackson who had the woman seated to my left all worked up as if she was viewing Internet porn. Jackson had his Mojo working big time.

This was a wonderful concert to sit through. Each musician was in mint form. It was good to hear a female trumpeter, Tanya Darby, cutting up in the trumpet section.

Marsalis has taken a lot of heat over the years for the absence of female musicians in the orchestra. Darby wasn’t featured on any of the selections, but she fit in nicely in the trumpet section with Marcus Printup, Kenny Rampton and Marsalis.

One of the delights was listening to Marsalis explain the origins of each composition. Marsalis is a walking encyclopedia of jazz, and listening to him is like being in a graduate seminar on the music. 
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