An Evening of Jazz

An Evening of Jazz
Presented by Adelaide High School. Adelaide Fringe Festival. Spiegel Zelt at Gluttony, Rymill Park/Murlawirrapurka. 17 March, 2017.

It was an intriguing surprise to find the Adelaide High School Jazz Band performing as part of the Adelaide Fringe cabaret program; an opportunity too good for a reviewer to pass up. How would this music fare when experienced as part of a festival that is simply bustling and bursting with sights and sounds?

All credit, firstly, to those involved for successfully coping with the unfairly intrusive sounds of pre-recorded pop from the PA at Gluttony; the focus displayed under these conditions was admirable – plus with everyone professionally costumed in black, they certainly managed to look the part.

The music, on the whole, is smartly chosen and capably performed. 'Green Dolphin Street' delivers a pleasantly sophisticated arrangement with a Latin bossa nova feel; 'Milestones' is another notable highlight. 'My Favourite Things' (inspired by the instrumental John Coltrane version) is especially enhanced by a series of above-average solos; the ensemble are impressively successful at maintaining the steady rhythm of the piece at a soft volume under the lead instrument. 'Pick up the Pieces' is a great way to conclude the evening with an upbeat funky feel.

The vocal numbers have a more uneven impact. 'L.O.V.E.' is a performance that reflects a studied and focused approach, without the level of relaxation and expression that would have made it truly satisfying; similarly, 'Birdland' loses much of the fun that should be flowing through it. 'They Can’t Take That Away From Me' is given a steadily upbeat arrangement that is slightly disconcerting, and that at times threatens to overpower the vocalist (possibly due to misjudged microphone level from the tech operator; for that matter, why wasn’t the conductor/announcer amplified?) A technically accomplished rendition of Night and Day is the best of this bunch.

One has to assess this kind of performance less on what it achieves in its own right than on what it portends for the future. There is a sense in which the most useful objective behind a show like this one, outside of serving as a showcase to supportive friends and family of the young players, lies in reassuring the jazz enthusiasts out there – including this reviewer – that the music is still studied, still performed, and still living.

On that basis, An Evening of Jazz is enough of a success to have been worth seeing; it’s also a reassurance that old masters like Miles Davis aren’t ready to be consigned to the archives of history just yet.

Anthony Vawser

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