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Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at Central Park SummerStage

Kurt Gottschalk By

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Zyporin didn't shy from the orchestra's voice, either. From the first notes, the strings brought out the romanticism in Bowie's opening refrain, making from it a delicate Tchaikovsky march. His arrangement of "Lazarus," the other "hit" (there were no singles released from the album but promotional videos for "Lazarus" and the title track) brought out the percussive and instrumental compliments to the melody lines so well crafted in the original. When the orchestra reached a rousing arrangement of the closing track, "I Can't Give Everything Away," the audience was fully in its embrace. Cheers broke out like at a rock show during Beiser's animated soloing.

Beiser then announced what wasn't quite encore nor finale in an arrangement of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," saying that the title held true for audience and orchestra alike. It made sense enough in a classic rock way, but Bowie doesn't, or doesn't need to, make sense in a classic rock way. They played a loving arrangement with a heartfelt sentiment, but it was an unnecessary cap on the evening. Fortunately they capped the cap with an upbeat party, giving TSOP treatment to Bowie's biggest hit (and one of only two Billboard #1s), "Let's Dance," with McCaslin joining in.

There's no lack of sentiment attached to David Bowie and his music in New York City. The town he called home even bedecked a subway station with his multiple likenesses (just blocks from the loft where he and wife Iman lived, although doubtless neither ever took the train) and which he termed a "go-go where everything tastes nice." So while a warm reception to the "classical" treatment of Bowie's music was almost a given, it was still one they earned.

The point that Bowie wrote "serious music" doesn't need to be proven. He proved it himself time and again, and if an outside source is needed, Philip Glass has already done as much with his "Bowie Symphonies" (the third of which, based on the songs from Lodger, is set to be given its premiere by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January). Ziporyn and company weren't out to prove anything, however. They were just paying their respects with faithful arrangements, and they paid in full.

Photo Credit: Sachyn Mital, courtesy of Le Poisson Rouge

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