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Bridge-Crossing Music - Colin MacDonald's Pocket Orchestra
Friday, November 01, 2013



My world in 1960 was full of my mother’s music. There was Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Chopin.




But that sonic world changed gradually for me when I discovered Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and sometime around 1962 I heard a record called Third Stream MusicThe Modern Jazz Quartet and Guests. There was a particular cut in that record (still one of my favourite pieces to play very loud in my living room) called Sketch in which the MJQ plays alongside the Beaux Arts String Quartet. It was in this piece that I first heard and liked the sound of an “angry” cello. The record also exposed me to musicians who were then experimenting with the idea of new music and of melding it with jazz. Two of them were clarinetist Jimmy Jiuffre and French hornist Gunther Schuller. 

It was this record and trips to concerts of 20th century music at the University of Mexico that exposed me, but I did not always like, to music that was not of the 19th century romantic stream. A record from my ever favourite Stan Getz, his 1961 Focus (with music composed and arranged by Eddy Sauter) helped to introduce me to the sound of dissonance. In particular there was “I’m Late, I’m Late” which had an unceasing background that unsettled and gave me relief when it all ended 8 minutes later. I soon grew to like this sort of thing.

It all clicked in my mind tonight at Fantasia at the Orpheum Annex in a concert featuring Colin MacDonald’s “compact” Pocket Orchestra.

But before I can explain myself let me go back to 1980 when writer Les Wiseman and I were returning from working on a story that featured Vancouver, Washington and how the city was poised to either vote or not vote for then President Jimmy Carter.

It was late evening and we were driving through that covered section of the Seattle freeway in my mid-engine Fiat X1/9 with the Clash playing London Calling very loud. I noticed how the lights of the city streaked by fast and how the repetition of the music all made me want to floor the gas pedal. It was then that I began a list in my mind of music to drive fast on freeways or to cross long bridges.


And tonight at Fantasia I can assert that not only are there London Calling by the Clash, Focus with Stan Getz, Sketch with the MJQ, and a piece by 18th century composer, Joseph Haydn, his 21st Symphony that can all be played loudly in a car while driving fast on a freeway, preferably at night. but that there are others. I heard four more tonight, sitting on the front row, nice and loud (unfortunately stuck to my chair). These are are Knowing the Ropes by Michael Nyman (1944), Kick by Steve Martland (1954-2013) a composition associated with English football and I could imagine Brixton hooligans trashing trains, Bunny’s Day Off by Pocket Orchestra cellist Stefan Hintersteininger and Colin MacDonald’s (he plays all kinds of saxophones) Skillful  Means.

All of the pieces featured a repeating theme that this amateur can only call a vamp much as the one by the piano, bass and drums in Dave Brubeck’s Take Five. This “vamp” seems to inexorably become louder and faster. You find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for a resolution.

This amateur happened to be sitting between two professional musicians. To my left was soprano Alexandra Hill and to my right composer Jocelyn Morlock. Just as soon as the night’s program began with Nyman’s Knowing the Ropes I could not but smile, as Morlock was who told me when it ended, "they began with something really difficult!" 

Morlock was at the concert perhaps for the very same reason I was. Where else but in concerts such as these and others of Vancouver’s New Music Scene, like the performances of the Turning Point Ensemble give you the privilege and pleasure of listening to music that is brand new. Sometimes you leave these concerts with the melancholy that music played for the first time might just be its last.


But thanks toYouTube and other on-line music venues you can listen right here to at least two of the pieces I heard tonight.

The rest of the program had music that I must listen to again, if that is possible. There was Steve Martland’s Mr. Anderson’s Pavane, something that I would call a Bulgarian In Paris (complete with the sounds of Gershwin, the trumpet of Chet Baker (and yes Pocket Orchestra Geeta Das did play a Fluegelhorn!), some Benny Goodman and Bulgarian folk songs I have no knowledge of) Fantasia by Bentzion Eliezer (1920-1993) and a rather challenging piece by Pocket Orchestra trombonist Brad Muirhead called You Can Get There From Here. Of the latter if you would convert it into a question, and if  Ives were alive he would have said, “It is still unanswered.” Perhaps I will have the opportunity not only to listen to it again but all the other works that so satisfied me in an evening of delightful new music in which the smile on the musicians’ faces (and in particular on saxophonist and clarinetist David Branter) reflected not only their fun in playing but that they were sharing something that we must not forget, music has the obligation to not only challenge but to entertain and please. The evening’s concert succeeded in all three. 


Of Hintersteininger’s Bunny’s Day Off, described in the program notes : It is a breezily cheerful musician adventure illustrating what might happen if a rabbit takes the day off work and gets behind the wheel of a high-powered sports car, I can only add that it need not be high-powered, a bright red Miata cruising through Seattle’s covered freeway at night would do just fine. And below some fine bridge-crossing music.




     

Previous Posts
Caroline Said II

Lisa a.k.a. Alexandria

A New Friend

Turning Point Ensemble, Forbidden Music - A Tuba ...

A Venus In Fur & A Dog Collar

Take Back Your Mind At The Fotoautomaton

There's A Certain Slant Of Light At The Cultch

Joy Division At Café Retiro

ESMA & The Banality of Evil

Ballet BC - Boys! Boys! Boys!



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11/22/15 - 11/29/15

11/29/15 - 12/6/15

12/6/15 - 12/13/15

12/13/15 - 12/20/15

12/20/15 - 12/27/15

12/27/15 - 1/3/16

1/3/16 - 1/10/16

1/10/16 - 1/17/16

1/31/16 - 2/7/16

2/7/16 - 2/14/16

2/14/16 - 2/21/16

2/21/16 - 2/28/16

2/28/16 - 3/6/16

3/6/16 - 3/13/16

3/13/16 - 3/20/16

3/20/16 - 3/27/16

3/27/16 - 4/3/16

4/3/16 - 4/10/16

4/10/16 - 4/17/16

4/17/16 - 4/24/16

4/24/16 - 5/1/16

5/1/16 - 5/8/16

5/8/16 - 5/15/16

5/15/16 - 5/22/16

5/22/16 - 5/29/16

5/29/16 - 6/5/16

6/5/16 - 6/12/16

6/12/16 - 6/19/16

6/19/16 - 6/26/16

6/26/16 - 7/3/16

7/3/16 - 7/10/16

7/10/16 - 7/17/16

7/17/16 - 7/24/16

7/24/16 - 7/31/16

7/31/16 - 8/7/16

8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17