Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Georg Breinschmid at Hong Kong City Hall

Georg Breinschmid at Hong Kong City Hall
Rob Garratt By

Sign in to view read count
Georg Breinschmid & Friends with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta
Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall
HKS Cool Summer Festival
Hong Kong
August 18, 2018

Oxymoron, or blasphemy? The very concept of "symphonic jazz" might provoke polarizing opinions in the more faithful fan—but few have spliced orchestral traditions with an improvisational approach quite as brazenly as Georg Breinschmid.

The Austrian double bassist was once a member of the esteemed Vienna Philharmonic, before quitting 20 years ago to pursue his true love—soon after joining the jazz-inclined Vienna Art Orchestra and clocking appearances with luminaries including Archie Shepp and Kenny Wheeler. But fate and fortune has brought Breinschmid back to the concert hall—and back to the classical repertoire. Tackled, it must be said, in a distinctly heretical manner, in eccentric evidence at August 18's appearance backed by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, at the latter's permanent home in Hong Kong City Hall.

For all the bassist's theatrics—plucking, strumming, bowing, thwacking and smacking his instrument with merry aplomb—the greatest visual pleasures were found in casting glances away from the star attraction, to consider the perplexed features and furtive glances of the tuxedoed players around him. And the residents had cause for consternation, as their guest proceeded to dissect and deconstruct first Bartók's Romanian Folk Dances, and then a modern reimagining of Bizet's much-loved Carmen-Fantasie, credited to composer Tscho Theissing but owing twice as much to Breinschmid's brassy improvisational approach—which tightrope-dashed so daringly between academic smarts and crowd-pleasing pyrotechnics, it was often easiest to forgo all existing measures of good taste.

It almost felt as a relief when Breinschmid left the stage, allowing the orchestra to reclaim their home turf for a rousing trio of dances from On the Town . At this point in 2018, concertgoers might feel a certain malaise amid the tumult of Bernstein tributes marking what would have been the icon's 100th year, but the Sinfonietta's sympathetically swinging delivery proved the classical establishment's ideal antidote to their impudently jazzy visitors.

For this musical fruit salad was presented in four orderly chapters, and there were no such bourgeois concerns of taste or tradition in the evening's final quarter—which united the Sinfonietta with Breinschmid's trio to deliver a quartet of the bandleader's own works. Knotty, idiosyncratic compositions written in tricky time signatures and drawing from disparate musical traditions, the orchestra surpassed itself in its supporting role, laying out lush harmonic nets and mounting frenzied sparring challenges, led with evident enthusiasm by British guest conductor Roderick Dunk.

These ensemble arrangements—in three of four cases by Michael Radanovics—had the welcome effect of reigning in the trio's more extravagant indulgences, in joyful evidence during the preceding segment, which saw Breinschmid, Bulgarian pianist Antoni Donchev and German violinist Florian Willeitner perform a wantonly hyperactive, unaccompanied chamber-jazz set, which careened from an opening dose of "JSB" (Bach to you and me) through dashes of tango, samba and folk dance.

So much of the evening was sonically unprecedented—with no existing mental box to file away what was being processed—it was often cerebrally exhausting to absorb. But our synapses weren't the only organs being strained—after more than two intermission-less hours, the disconcertingly cheerful Breinschmid returned to the stage, wrapped his battered plucking figures in plaster-tape, and launched into a second, unplanned encore. Gā yàu!


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Live Reviews
General Articles
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Double Brein

Double Brein

Preiser Records



Preiser Records

Brein's World

Brein's World

Preiser Records


Related Articles

Read Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 2 Live Reviews
Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 2
by James Fleming
Published: December 17, 2018
Read Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 3 Live Reviews
Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 3
by James Fleming
Published: December 17, 2018
Read 2018 Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 4 Live Reviews
2018 Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 4
by James Fleming
Published: December 17, 2018
Read Brian Wilson Presents The Christmas Album Live Live Reviews
Brian Wilson Presents The Christmas Album Live
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: December 16, 2018
Read Jazz Migration 2018 Live Reviews
Jazz Migration 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2018
Read Bessie Smith Empress of the Blues Tribute at The Cabot Live Reviews
Bessie Smith Empress of the Blues Tribute at The Cabot
by Doug Hall
Published: December 11, 2018
Read "Atlanta Jazz Festival 2018" Live Reviews Atlanta Jazz Festival 2018
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 9, 2018
Read "Jazzahead! 2018" Live Reviews Jazzahead! 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: May 3, 2018
Read "NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon" Live Reviews NYC Winter Jazzfest 2018 - The Friday Marathon
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 22, 2018
Read "The Dixie Dregs at Scottish Rite Auditorium" Live Reviews The Dixie Dregs at Scottish Rite Auditorium
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 17, 2018
Read "Not Two...But Twenty! Festival" Live Reviews Not Two...But Twenty! Festival
by John Sharpe
Published: October 13, 2018
Read "Black Flower at Moriska Paviliongen" Live Reviews Black Flower at Moriska Paviliongen
by Patrick Burnette
Published: February 24, 2018