And so the rumpus concludes.
The 4th season of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra came to a close Wednesday night at the Music Hall with the big band’s annual presentation of Duke Ellington’s and Billy Strayhorn’s arrangement of The Nutcracker, along with reprisals of well-received tunes played in earlier programs.
It’s fun to hear Tchaikovsky filtered through the jazz idiom, and the band, led by Charlton Singleton, cracked that nut well, making those familiar melodies swing. The grove Singleton found for the orchestra was wide, allowing for a relatively relaxed musical flow this time around.
The Nutcracker wasn’t the only classical work played; the band offered jazz version of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the Toreador Song from Bizet’s “Carmen,” both arranged by band regulars.
Also struck up were a couple of original tunes, “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Soul Man,” a Carlos Jobim samba and “The Charleston.” Especially well performed was a version of “If I Only Had a Brain,” an arrangement by alto sax player Jon Phillips that included some vocal jazz.
The sound in the balcony was a bit too loud, especially the trumpets which crossed a sound barrier in the higher register. Perhaps the horn players could stand further away from the mikes, or perhaps the mix could be adjusted.
Singleton’s trumpet, instead, was just fine. He played with his usual finesse and verve. He even sang a number, “Shotgun” by Junior Walker, which riled up the audience.
The jazz orchestra has found its voice and its place in Charleston. It certainly deserves the attention it’s getting, and more. Its presenters probably can trust that the momentum achieved after more than four years of hard work, now needs a gentler reinforcement. The work behind the scenes never stops, of course, but the promotion from the stage no longer requires the same thrust.
The show speaks for itself.
The 5th anniversary season begins Jan. 26 with a program devoted to the music of John Coltrane. That should push the band into new melismatic territory.