All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

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...

285

Gilad Atzmon Plays Bird and More at Snape Proms in Suffolk, England

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Gilad Atzmon
Snape Maltings Concert Hall
Suffolk, England
August 26, 2009




Snape Concert Hall, set in beautiful Suffolk countryside, was built as a barley malting hall in the 1840s. In 1965 the hall was converted by composer Benjamin Britten into a 900-seat concert venue. Saxophonist Gilad Atzmon loves Snape Concert Hall—and, lest his love affair with the place wasn't clear from his playing, he went to the extra trouble of telling the audience on at least three occasions during the evening of his fondness for the venue, delivering a warm and entertaining performance of rare quality. Atzmon is a mesmerizing performer: a strong visual presence on stage, a stand-up comedian (at one point he tried to persuade the audience that Charlie Parker had been born in Ipswich, Suffolk's county town), as well as a gifted musician.

Atzmon was performing his Gilad With Strings program as part of the Snape Proms, accompanied by Frank Harrison on piano, Yaron Stavi on bass, Eddie Hicks on drums and the Sigamos String Quartet led by Ros Stephens. Gilad With String is, as Atzmon said, a tribute to Charlie Parker. Most of the evening's tunes were taken from Parker's 1949 recordings with a string orchestra—featured on Atzmon's album In Loving Memory Of America (Enja Records, 2009)—with the addition of some of Atzmon's own compositions. The resulting concert blended jazz and classical performers into a superb musical aggregation.

The tunes taken from Parker's recordings were beautifully arranged and performed. Each seemed to deliver its own memorable highlight. Cole Porter's "What is This Thing Called Love" was underpinned by a smooth, driving, rhythm from Stavi and Hicks: Rodgers and Hart's "I Didn't Know What Time it Was" was exceptionally beautiful throughout, from the strings' languid opening bars to their final sustained note; David Raksin's "Laura," played as the encore, was an exquisite ensemble performance. The string quartet arrangements for these tunes, by Stephens, were sympathetic to the original Parker arrangements while the Sigamos Quartet's own enthusiasm also helped to ensure that these four players created a sound that was almost as full and effective as that of the original, larger orchestra.

While these tunes were things of beauty, played with love and reverence, it was Atzmon's own compositions that were the high points of the night. "The Burning Bush" and "Refuge" were played with power and emotion from all of the musicians and clearly showed the wide range of influences Atzmon brings to bear on his writing and playing, especially those of his own Middle Eastern upbringing. In "The Burning Bush," the longest tune of the night, Atzmon vocalized through his alto as well as coaxed an exceptional purity of tone from the instrument. The jazz musicians played with increasing volume, almost in competition with the Sigamos Quartet who, despite playing with equal enthusiasm, were drowned out for the only time in the concert. "Refuge" was a powerful and dynamic performance from all eight musicians. Harrison strummed the piano strings, Stavi and Hicks provided a strong pulse at the heart of the tune, and Atzmon, on clarinet, traded phrases with the string players, who also added back-up vocals by singing through their instruments' microphones.

"Call me Stupid, Ungrateful, Vicious and Insatiable," performed by Atzmon on clarinet accompanied by the Sigamos Quartet, showed a gentler, more straightforward side to Atzmon's writing and playing, despite the tune's title. So, too, did a short duet with Harrison during which Atzmon played long phrases with his alto horn under the lid of the piano. Atzmon did not attach microphones to his instruments, preferring instead to play into freestanding microphones. This detachment from the electronic amplification allowed him much greater control over the dynamics of his playing, which he used to great effect. It also enabled him to prowl the stage with his instrument, playing with great sensitivity and emotion alone at center stage, or close to one or another of his fellow musicians, with little if any loss of volume—a testament to the hall's excellent acoustics as well as to Atzmon's ability as a musician.

This was a beautiful performance, in a beautiful venue. The musicians never forgot that they were playing for an audience, and as a result the concert made for an involving, affective and memorable evening.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Abdullah Ibrahim at the Michigan Theater Live Reviews
Abdullah Ibrahim at the Michigan Theater
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 25, 2018
Read The Jane Getter Premonition at Iridium Live Reviews
The Jane Getter Premonition at Iridium
by Roger Weisman
Published: April 24, 2018
Read Liberty Ellman Trio at Crescent Arts Centre Live Reviews
Liberty Ellman Trio at Crescent Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Tallinn Music Week 2018 Live Reviews
Tallinn Music Week 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: April 19, 2018
Read James Blood Ulmer and the Thing at Bochum Art Museum Live Reviews
James Blood Ulmer and the Thing at Bochum Art Museum
by Phillip Woolever
Published: April 17, 2018
Read Jocelyn Medina at Jazz at Kitano Live Reviews
Jocelyn Medina at Jazz at Kitano
by Tyran Grillo
Published: April 16, 2018
Read "Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms" Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read "Marbin at The Firmament" Live Reviews Marbin at The Firmament
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 15, 2018
Read "Abdullah Ibrahim at the Michigan Theater" Live Reviews Abdullah Ibrahim at the Michigan Theater
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 25, 2018
Read "Temple University Jazz Band at The Appel Room" Live Reviews Temple University Jazz Band at The Appel Room
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 1, 2018
Read "Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival 2017" Live Reviews Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival 2017
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: December 16, 2017