John Williams/Roger Garfitt, Norwich
DAVID WAKEFIELD What an unusual and most pleasant evening this turned out to be, with the words and poetry of Garfitt fleshing out the musical contributions from the septet.
What an unusual and most pleasant evening this turned out to be, with the words and poetry of Roger Garfitt fleshing out the musical contributions from the John Williams Septet, firstly on a potted history of jazz; and then on a six-part mini-work called In All My Holy Mountain, based on the writings of west country writer Mary Webb, set to music by pianist Nikki Iles.
The first half took in the lives and music of such as Bechet, Armstrong and Ellington, culminating in the still alarmingly fresh and original works of Charles Mingus, the mini-orchestra, thanks to Williams' clever arrangements, managing to recreate the flavour of the period concerned.
Ellington lovers will have wallowed in a haunting arrangement of Creole Love Call, played on clarinet, bass clarinet and contra-bass clarinet, a monstrous piece of plumbing seldom seen on a jazz stage.
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John Williams is not a familiar figure on the “circuit” and more's the pity. An outstanding multi-instrumentalist and visualiser of fresh approaches he showed himself also to be a fluent and innovative soloist.
Garfitt's informative and informal chat between readings was the perfect companion to the music.
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Full marks to the Norwich Playhouse for putting on a concert with a difference – yet another flavour to an outstanding East Coast Jazz Festival.