Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Prom 41: Gershwin (BBC4)

What a fascinating, if flawed, experiment this was. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra joined forces with the Marcus Roberts Trio for Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, with the trio contributing extensive improvised passages.

As the talking heads before noted, Rhapsody in Blue is itself a clash between jazz and "classical" styles, so on the face of it it's entirely natural to bring a jazz trio into the mix. The problem is that the excellent Roberts and his cohorts play in a post-Coltrane, post-Monk idiom, so what we ended up with was a three-way clash between classicism, pre-war and post-war jazz, with none emerging unscathed. Roberts' solos were wonderful, and when his rhythm section of Roland Guerin and Jason Marsalis kicked in things really took flight, but when they played along with the orchestra in the "composed" bits the result was oddly stilted, the stiffer '20s rhythms jarring against the more fluid post-bop element. I'd love to hear the trio alone improvise on the Rhapsody, as what they gave us tonight was exquisite, but I'm not convinced the middle of a "conventional" reading really works as the place to do it. Having said that, all involved acquitted themselves well, and this was an imaginative piece of programming, so full marks to the Proms for bringing it to us.

Roberts, Guerin and Marsalis gave us an encore, a delicious take on "I Got Rhythm" that had me hungering to hear more of them.

(Sorry, I can't comment on the rest of this show as I was watching Jamie Oliver on the other side, who showed me some excellent ways with courgettes.)

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