The Rodger Fox Big Band and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra swung into spring with a much-appreciated gusto.
Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, "rocked up" a la Emerson Lake and Palmer, set the party mood. With conducting duties shared by Fox and Hamish McKeich, it was raucous fun, and Bryn van Vliet's searing saxophone contributed the first of many fine solos to come from band members.
Matt Harris' newly commissioned The Red Zone didn't quite catch the gravity of Christchurch's devastation in its expansive 15 minutes, with a lyrical middle section that might have been cooler and bleaker.
Nick Granville's Matakana was less ambitious and worked better, tracing childhood memories of North Auckland from a substantial orchestral introduction to celebratory sign-off.
American trumpeter Allen Vizzutti well deserved star billing, combining showbiz, style and sass. His beautifully caressed flugelhorn melody in Piazzolla's Oblivion blended well with one of the evening's more audible orchestral contributions; later, his trumpet pyrotechnics dazzled in his own Fire Dance.
A suite from West Side Story missed the punch of Bernstein's orchestral Symphonic Dances, but standards from the Duke Ellington and Bobby Troup songbooks revealed the RFBB at its best. The encore was Dizzy Gillespie's A Night in Tunisia, with hip solos from Vizzutti and Fox incorporating the equivalent of a playful, duelling cadenza.
What: Swing into Spring
Where: Auckland Town Hall