By John Clayton
If true battles were fought the way some people imagine the Clayton-Hamilton and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are to duke it out this month (more on the "other" Duke in a moment), we might just be a world with fewer global conflicts.
What you will witness, when the two bands perform on Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater stage together, will be two bands with a high level of mutual respect that are eager to share their artistic energy. And energetic it will be!
What good can come of two huge ensembles performing at the same time? It's all about color and texture, tension and release, inspiring and being affected. There will be sounds produced that you can't get from a smaller combination of instruments and I'm not speaking about the decibel level. There will be a warm, cushion-like sound that fills the room when a ballad is performed by the two bands together. There will be a refined wall of sound that will excite all listeners. But there will primarily be "The Vibe."
The mood, the feeling, the atmosphere communicated from the stage will be in the air in knife-cutting thickness. This mood thing is not
unfamiliar to us. We live for it, we lay for it, and we even spend money to be in the same room with it.
Listen to the bite of the brass, the grace and excitement of the saxophones. Check out the drive of the rhythm sections. Feel the joy of the musicians. Put it together and you'll have that special vibe and mood.
The most popular collaboration between two big bands occurred when Count Basie met Duke Ellington in a NY studio in 1961. To understand the respect these top band leaders had for each other, observe what Ellington had to say about Basie on the day of their recording:
"The Count is a very dear friend," he announced regally. "I have known and admired him ever since he appeared at Edmond's in 1923. ...the Count was playing piano [there] when I first arrived in New York from Washington. Yes, he and I are very close. He's like a brother to me. Over the years I have developed a profound and total appreciation of the Count... I deem it a pleasure and an honor to have had him and his entire big, fat sound, swinging band as our house guests, as it were."
It is in this spirit that East meets West. It is in this spirit that unforgettable music will be made. It is in this spirit that music was written and rehearsed for audiences which came from near and far. And it is why, unlike other types of battles, this encounter finds 35 jazz artists getting together to combine their joy.
Listen for their styles, the compositions and arrangements they use to introduce the members, their dynamics, their swing (OMG, The Swing that we will all experience!), their attention to detail and more. When you allow yourself to flow with them, you will be transported to a place that will be fulfilling and memorable.
Duke and Count made history with their 1961 recording. 47 years later, the JLCO and CHJO will make history when they combine forces to laugh and play together. Oh,...and SWING!