Pianist Lucy Faridany & Conductor John Anderson
A capacity audience turned out to hear the MPC Concert Band in its Gershwin concert last night in MPC’s Theater, and it was a supercharged audience that tended to linger around after the concert was over. This was a larger than life band — I mean five tubas, five trombones, four trumpets, and more versions of a clarinet than I even knew existed, and everybody played their hearts out.
Over the years Conductor John Anderson has built what amounts to a community band with a span of ages from age 16 to 70’s plus (actually I think I saw in the ensemble on stage one man in his eighties). We can assume that for enthusiastic professional and amateur jazz players an opportunity to perform in the MPC Concert Band under the direction of veteran John Anderson ranks up there with the more important events in their lives.
The concert ended with a spectacular performance of Rhapsody in Blue with pianist Lucy Faridany as soloist. Although we have heard Ms. Faridany several times performing as collaborator in ensemble concerts and as a soloist in classical concertos, this is the first time we have heard her in a jazz work, and it fit her like a glove. Although it was sometimes difficult to hear her playing against the full band of over sixty players (my guess is that Paul Whiteman’s original band had less than thirty), when the band quieted down, or was tacit, we could hear her her exciting rhythmic and lyrical playing. Faridany managed to bring her artistic and refined talents to bear on this jazz masterpiece and make it a great success.
Also on the program were some less familiar Gershwin works — his Cuban Overture, his Second Prelude for piano (arranged for concert band), Lullaby (for five wind players) and “Strike up the Band” (in a super band arrangement I had not heard before). Another major work on the program was “An American in Paris,” and although it is familiar to audiences everywhere, it never fails to charm us with its brash jazzy energy, and so it did on this occasion.
Tanya Harris & James Lesu’i
Another great success on the evening’s program was a performance of the Suite from Porgy & Bess featuring soprano Tanya Harris and baritone James Lesu’i. To hear all the great favorites in this suite so passionately performed by these fine young artists was a profoundly moving experience, and I hope we will be hearing more from them in future concerts.
We heard some great individual solos in the concert. Principal Clarinet Grant Rosen not only wowed us with his introductory glissando at the opening or Rhapsody in Blue, but also was outstanding in several other works as well. I was impressed with the artistry of trumpet player Jack Begley, who in addition to having a beautiful sound, also had a control of dynamics that permitted him to shape phrases like a great singer. We heard also a great English Horn solo by Susan Elliger, and several fine oboe solos by Erica Horn.
This has been a busy week in the MPC Theater — Dave Dally’s String Ensemble, a Jazz Concert and John Anderson’s MPC Concert Band, all in a five-day period.
My cup runneth over.