Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Trish Clowes and Guy Barker with the BBC Concert Orchestra - London Jazz Festival 2014

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Tuesday 18th November 2014

There was quite some sense of expectation last night at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for the 'Trish Clowes and Guy Barker with the BBC Concert Orchestra' concert. Premieres of commissions can be nervy affairs at the best of times, a concert orchestra and live Radio 3 broadcast only upping the ante.

We were eased into the evening with a few pieces from the Trish Clowes Quintet. ‘Question Mark’ was a clipped angular affair followed by the gently questioning ‘Chorale’, the intro of which Clowes delivered with a sensitive lyricism. The BBC Concert Orchestra then joined for ‘Balloon’. It began nice and groovily, Clowes saxophone sounding strong and strident. I felt the orchestra could have kicked more when they came in, but they still managed to give the piece some extra depth.

Guy Barker then came on to conduct his ‘Soho Symphony’ with the orchestra, a piece based on a 24 hour boy almost meets girl story. For the most part I really enjoyed this largely classical sounding piece. I’m no expert on classical sounds, but my ears were hearing a range of elements through the piece including impressionistic Debussy, some 2001 Ligeti style floating dissonances, Psycho stabbing violins, dark growling chords with spitting muted trumpets along with some classic swing blues moments. It came together well.

Singer Norma Winstone joined the quintet and orchestra for some arrangements by Clowes and Barker of songs she's performed in the past.  ‘Peacock’ tested Winstone’s range with some very tricky wide intervals, but she pulled it off like a pro backed by a lovely lush string arrangement. My personal favourite of the night was the Clowes arrangement of John Taylor’s ‘Enjoy the Day’, a track from Winstone’s first record under her own name.  Some potent solos from Clowes and Mike Walker on guitar enhanced a really great chord sequence. It was interesting to hear an orchestra backed version of Steve Swallow’s ‘Ladies in Mercedes’ which totally worked, James Maddren’s drums sounding particularly sweet on the track’s seductive latin groove.

The evening finished with a Clowes’ composed three part commissioned piece, ‘The Fox, The Parakeet and The Chestnut’.  The first part I found a bit frustrating, being a bit jerky both rhythmically and harmonically. However this was followed by a really engaging section opened by Clowes playing some eerie sax into the sound box of Gwilym Simcock’s piano. Walker added a lovely raindrop like guitar backdrop to which the violins adding extra texture. The latter part of the piece really kicked in with Clowes sounding particularly gutsy.  There were some tentative moments for sure, but overall the piece was a genuine success.

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