Review: NZSO and Rodger Fox Big Band Concert

By Barry Smith

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The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with the Rodger Fox Big Band played the
Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre.  Photo/File
The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with the Rodger Fox Big Band played the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre. Photo/File

Merging the sounds of a symphony orchestra with those of a big jazz band in a concert setting presents challenges on many fronts.

For a start, there is the obvious issue of balance. But, on top of that, finding suitably arranged repertoire out of which to build a sense of musical cohesion is not a straight forward task.

And just how important this is was confirmed throughout the programme with the arrangement of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man being all too often ragged while the Fat Freddy's Drop number Wandering Eye simply failed to fire.

However, there were many high points in the evening.

For example, Bobby Troup's The Meaning of the Blues brought with it excellent big band feel and good solos with Rodger Fox on trombone in great form. Paul McDonald's beautifully textured arrangement of Bernstein's West Side Story Suite with its inspired use of keyboards worked well across the two ensembles as did Nick Granville's Matakana with its haunting string opening.

Much of this success was due to conductor Hamish McKeich who handled his musical forces with his typically relaxed and knowing finesse.

But with the entrance of American trumpeter Allen Vizzutti, the proceedings lifted to another level. With dazzling horn technique that was always in the service of the music, his set on flugelhorn was particularly fine and at times sublime both in terms of tone and phrasing.

His sombre composition Touch was possibly the highlight of the evening. Altogether this was a successful concert with high energy levels and many examples of consummate musicianship.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with the Rodger Fox Big Band
Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre, Rotorua
7.30pm, Wednesday 7th September 2016

- Rotorua Daily Post

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