Sunday, 10 August 2008

Prom 31: Smoochy-coochy

I did wonder if I might have been spoilt for tonight’s ‘jazzy’ Prom, since I stayed up last night to listen to the real thing, as it were, the recording on R3 of the brilliant John Scofield Barbican concert from last year.

So that might be why I found Jason Yarde’s arrangement of Gershwin clever, but relatively unremarkable. And again, maybe I’m being unjust, but I wasn’t that enamoured of his own “Rhythm and Other Fascinations’, but perhaps that was the fault of the audience as percussionists. They were warned that if they didn’t follow the percussionists’ rhythm with their clapping, they’d destroy it.

They completely lost it, I don’t know how, considering quite a fair proportion are usually amateur musicians or music students, and did. I was joining in at home, fairly competently I thought, until then, and they completely threw me, too. I bet this is the first time you’ve read an audience being castigated for their performance at a Prom? (I’m not sure, but I think the R3 engineers attempted a panic-stricken but brave rescue operation by cutting some of the audience mics.) Audience participation without a lot of rehearsal at a Prom is always risky, as Maxwell Davies discovered one year at the Last Night. As they say, don’t call us . . .

Nor, I’m afraid, though all three new pieces were vastly superior to last night’s utterly trivial ‘Javelin’, was I much taken by the over-lush Symcock “Progressions’ , which didn’t seem to progress anywhere like as far as Gershwin, or more likely, Bernstein or Copland, might have taken something like that—and there were some very obvious bits of them and even the MJQ from way back in it when it wasn’t being rather self-consciously ‘big band’ and Ellingtonian.

Beautifully played by the BBC Concert Orchestra, however, and lots of nice twiddly bits on the piano, if you like that sort of thing. Much of the piano part, though, would be nicely at home on a certain American ‘hi-fi buff’s’ label (which I’d better not name for fear of being sued) whose catalogue I once described as ‘music for the sophisticated lift’ somewhere I was sure I wouldn’t be overheard by a lawyer.

And some would have been better placed as a part of a trio than trying to support scoring of this scale. It apparently started as “a three movement concerto, but began to develop”. Quite. Really much too long to support itself, so I’d say it was ‘overdeveloped’. Some composers don’t know when to stop, do they? Nor do some writers once they get going, so I shall hurry on to the Gershwin and the Bernstein . . .

R3 Relay

Prom 31: Jason Yarde (arr.) Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now”; Rhythm and other Fascinations; Gwylim Symcock: Progresssions for Piano and Orchestra.

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