Problems that marred the LSO Live CD (to be reviewed) vis-à-vis balance and ensemble were all too evident in this concert. Conductor Russell Gloyd, who appears to have built his career conducting Brubeck concerts, lacks the required technique to lead the LSO with any real proficiency if the two examples of his work that I have experienced are a testament to his ability. The LSO is more than capable of producing a balanced sound. Tonight, without exception, when the brass was playing the strings and wind might as well not have been there. Often entries were late, which caused raggedness not an option in music of this genre.
If, according to this concert-goers ears, the conductor hindered the creative process, the opposite was true on the occasions that he went to the side of the stage, leaving Brubecks band to do their own thing. Tonights line-up was Brubecks more-regular players, including Slough-born Randy Jones. Gloyd, who compered with wit and enthusiasm, said the mention of Joness birthplace always brought laughter from British audiences. Not so for bass player Michael Moore, though I guess Come Friendly Bombs, fall on Cincinnati does not have the same resonance. Moores lyric improvisation, using the bow, during the middle section of Blue Rondo à la Turk was as melodically beautiful as it was technically challenging. The applause received from the orchestra alone merely serving to underline the New York Timess description of Moore as one of the most consistently brilliant bassists in recent history.
Naturally there were pieces taken from the LSO Live CD, but there were also some other, lesser-heard gems. Regret, for string orchestra and piano, received its first performance. Very much rooted in the American mould of Barber and Bernstein, the long string opening and closing passages allowed, for the first time, the LSOs strings to be heard in their fullest warmth and glory. The story behind the works title goes something like this, allegedly:
DB: Are you gonna play my piece?As is now customary at the end of every Brubeck concert, we heard what has become his theme. Ironically, Take Five was not written by Brubeck, but by a fellow student of Darius Milhaud, Paul Desmond. Bobby Militellos rendition, of what is probably the most famous saxophone melody ever, is harmonically poles-removed from Desmonds original recording. Militello has been working with Brubeck since 1982 and a more skilled player would be hard to find. He is also an accomplished flautist. His cadenza at the end of Koto Song is testimony to this two- or three-note multiphonic chords (that is playing up to three notes at the same time) were expertly formed and always in tune, which demonstrates excellent technique and real understanding of the instrument.
RG: What piece?
DB: The piece I just wrote
RG: Whats it called?
DB: Dont know I regret not naming it
RG: Sounds like a good name
Two encores rounded off the evening the first being Ellingtons Take the A Train which was almost entirely played by the quartet with just a few bars at the end from the orchestra. The audience would not let the quartet leave. Brubecks parting was pre-empted by a nod to Brahms taking one verse from his famous Lullaby with harmonisation appropriate to the occasion. Good night Mr. Brubeck, lullaby and sleep tight. Your band was wonderful, your solos sparkled. Please, next time, can somebody get the balance right?