Music by Jazz heavyweights Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, and Ornette Coleman was on the menu was Trumpet Maestro Wynton Marsalis bought his talented jazz big band to Birmingham Symphony Hall.
The fifteen piece band, which comprised a pianist, drummer, bassist, 4 trumpet players, 3 trombonists and 5 saxophonists, played music that deftly combined first class ensemble playing with world class individual improvisations.
The small but enthusiastic audience applauded every improvisation and every nuance in tempo and timbre as they evolved. The concert started with Charles Mingus’s ‘Dizzy Moments’ with its colourful movements, and an inspired trumpet solo from Wynton Marsalis. The set continued with two other Charles Mingus pieces ‘Tijuana Giftshop’ and ‘Los Mariachi’s’ the bands bassist adding much of Charles Mingus’s tone and presence to the pieces. The slightly lopsided rhythm and bass interjections of the later piece highlighting Mingus’s strengths as a composer, and allowing a number of instrumentalists the chance to stretch out, and show what they can do.
Wynton Marsalis’s solo spot was provided by the composition ‘Midnight Blues’. It cut right down on instrumentation with only bass, drums, and piano accompanying the group’s leader. Trumpet tones were bough forth, and the whinnying sound of the Trumpet’s mute were particularly effective during this part of the performance. The first half of the concert ended with an upbeat version of Ornette Coleman’s ‘Rambling’ with intricate saxophone parts weaving around trumpets and trombones playing a counterpint. Exceptionally inventive improvisations also added to the atmosphere during this performace.
The second half of the concert started with the first two movements of ‘Evolution of the Groove’ which afforded the group’s drummer, Will Right the chance to show what he could do.
Young singer Jennifer Swift was bought on for George Shearing’s ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ and Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ the two familiar tunes proving popular with the audience. The concert finished with two pieces from Duke Ellington’s suite ‘Black Rum and Biege’ with the encore of ‘Emancipation Celebration’ providing the ending that the concert needed.