I had to get this one off my chest sooner or later.
We recently went to see the Chris Dean’s Syd Laurence Orchestra. Side note – I am not linking to their site, because when I just visited it, it automatically played music at me with no way of turning it off – something I consider to be a mortal sin in web design. On the other hand, when I went to the ‘Listen to the Orchestra’ page, I couldn’t play anything because it said I was missing a plugin. Facepalm time.
Anyway – back to the main feature. Well – nearly. I suppose I should add that they’re an extremely talented bunch of musicians (even the drummer – despite what I say later in this piece), and on the whole I enjoyed the evening.
Now for the minor rant – one of the standard British jazz conventions seems to be that whenever members of an orchestra aren’t playing, they appear to fall asleep. Now I know that what’s really happening is that they are appreciating and meditating on the artistry of their colleagues as they await their own turn to play… but they look asleep, which doesn’t do a great deal to excite an audience. It may work in classical orchestras, but this is not a valid approach if you want to play swing. Any member of a band with this habit should really take a look at the following video clip – Jimmie Lunceford and his orchestra doing what they did best.
Anyway – that was the minor rant. For the major rant – well – one of the early pieces they played was Buddy Morrow’s arrangement of Night Train – and I love, love, love that version. For anyone unfamiliar with it, it revolves around an amazing sax-focussed section which goes like this:
Which the Syd Laurence sax players absolutely nailed – they did a great job it should have sounded incredible. The drummer, however, had other ideas and thundered his way through the whole piece with the subtlety of a bulldozer, destroying the whole effect, and turning what should have been a great experience into a mediocre one. I found myself wondering whether he actually understood his role in the orchestra.
Oh well. At least he stayed awake through the whole evening. Even if there were moments when I had to wonder if that was a good thing.