Uncajed Melodies V fantastic
Amazing and fantastic, were the words of choice from fulfilled patrons who attended Saturday evening’s ‘Uncajed Melodies V’, the annual concert staged by the Classical and Jazz Ensemble (CAJE) of The University of the West Indies (UWI), and the UWI Vocal Group and Wind Ensemble, at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts.
Promoted as an evening of classical, jazz, and contemporary music, it was staged under the direction of renowned composer and musical director Peter Ashbourne, with guest appearances by pianists Orville Hammond and Stephen Shaw-Naar – both lecturers at the School of Music at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
The musical evening got under way with the classical section, and the musicians gave their well-received interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, which is perhaps one of the best known of the five Brandenburg concertos. It is scored for three violins, three violas, three cellos, and bass, and is frequently played by string orchestras.
Sweet December, an original composition by Ashbourne and Alvin Campbell, was just that – sweet. Described by Ashbourne as “a sentimental late 19th century song,” it featured the lyric tenor Shaquore Nicely, a member of the University Singers, who was accompanied by one of the evening’s special guests, classical pianist and lecturer at the School of Music at the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts, Stephen Shaw-Naar.
This curtains came down on this section with The Concertino for Flute and Piano, followed by Joseph Haydn‘s Symphony No. 35 in Bb. Ably performed by flautist, Gabrielle Clarke, a multi-talented CAJE member, and pianist Shaw-Naar, who, again, showcased his oneness with the instrument, the concertino is a show piece for the flute, and was well-executed. It was written in 1902, as a commission by the Paris Conservatoire. The Symphony No. 35 in Bb, written by the Austrian composer in 1767, is one of the early Haydn symphonies, of which there are 106.
Praise for the ‘jazz guys’
Ashbourne was full of praise for his “jazz guys”, and by the end of this second segment, one could only wholeheartedly agree. Looking inspired, solidly connecting with each other and their audience, it was hard to believe that these players of instruments are all majors in disciplines other than music, and are not, in fact, professionals. The Benny Golson favourite, Killer Joe, of which it is said, is always handy as a rousing start to the Jazz set, certainly lived up to its reputation. Add to that the exquisite solos by Kofi Chase on violin, and David Samuels on trumpet, and this piece was a winner.
A rather interesting piece, Jimmy Cox’s Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down And Out) , was performed by Darryl ‘Cookie’ Roberts, with the CAJE Jazz Ensemble. Cox gave a credible rendition, and the truism of the lyrics resounded well with the audience. Written for, and made famous by Bessie Smith in 1923, this song comments on the transient nature of material wealth from the point of view of a one-time millionaire.
Orville Hammond, head of the Performance Department at the School of Music, was fashionably late, arriving minutes after the MC, Joel Moder-Ashbourne, had apologised for his absence. He was able to quickly take his seat with the orchestra, after which he did a solo, and the jury is still out as to whether or not his all of 12 minutes were too long, or if the peace and solace that it provided was just what the audience needed at that time. A must-mention is Esperanza Spaulding’s I Know You Know, which featured vocalist Tiffany Thompson, who some may have recognised as a Rising Stars alum. Thompson, simply put, was awesome.
The grand finale, the contemporary section, saw all the performers joining forces to deliver the very uptempo climax to the evening. Among the pieces were Tuxedo Junction, Bonanza Ska, James Bond Medley and T akin’ It To The Streets. While all the pieces were fun – and it was obvious that Ashbourne enjoyed himself immensely – the standouts were the Bonanza Ska and the James Bond Medley, both of which were actually medleys.
A well put together medley of themes from cowboy western TV shows and films from the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Bonanza Ska, according to Ashbourne, is a tribute to the talent, wit and craft of Jamaican band leader and arranger Carlos Malcolm. Ashbourne’s arrangement saw one of the performers beating his chest, clicking his heels and making the almost guttural sounds of horses. “That was exactly how those guys used to do it back then, so I had to teach it to him,” Ashbourne told The Gleaner.
The 57-year-old James Bond franchise, which has ties to the island, starting with the legendary film Dr No, which was filmed in Jamaica and England in 1962, was the source of the medley of five of the best-known themes from that series. A bit of theatrical drama was added by members of the cast who walked across the stage bearing placards with the names of each of the song, even as the musicians expertly unleashed their charm.