Beneath the Underdog proved a powerful Proms showcase of Charles Mingus’s radical repertoire, performed with bold attitude by Jules Buckley and his Metropole Orkest. Buckley was joined by a charismatic tribe of accomplished soloists known for their daring approaches to Jazz and a desire to progressively expand on its traditions.
‘Boogie Stop Shuffle’ proved a robust opening, underscored by Hans Vroomans’s growling piano riff augmented by brash cellos, culminating into toe-tapping excellence. Shabaka Hutchings, Bart van Lier and Christian Scott commanded with scorching ferocity in competitive solos in a rendition which simmered with dark and brooding energy. The performers playing off each other worked well throughout, notably in the second half of the show, where an ebullient interpretation of ‘Hora Decubitus’ interlaced their talents and featured a dizzying drum solo by Martijn Vink.
The introspective aspects of the accomplishments of Mingus (1922-79) were explored effectively in this vibrant and varied programme. ‘Celia’, Mingus’s spirited and sensual ballad to his second wife, melted into dreamy string interludes, alternated with van Lier’s electrifying trombone. Peter Tiehuis opened ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ with a soulfully sombre guitar solo and Kandace Springs led the elemental dissonance of ‘Weird Nightmare’ with nuance and tender expression in her vocal delivery.
‘Gunslinging Bird’ pulsed with subversive exuberance, in the bursts of insistent horns vying for attention and disjointed rhythmic loops against the unrelenting orchestral backdrop. Van Lier’s freewheeling solos sparkled, not least with snatches of Carmen’s ‘Habanera’ (from Bizet's opera) and Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ (Porgy and Bess), and Leo Pellegrino lent a zany energy. The latter went on to delight with an entertaining physical performance aligned with his instrumental acrobatics in the audacious finale ‘Better Git It In Your Soul’. Brimming with brashness, his confidence featured his signature stomping of feet and gyrating hips as he inhabited this celebratory piece. The ensemble went all out to impress, relishing in arrangements that plunged wholesale into the experimental – with a spirit of anarchy and irreverence as Mingus intended.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)
- BBC Proms www.bbc.co.uk/proms