The Prickle (@ThePrickle) August 25, 2017
Jules Buckley’s mighty Metropole Orkest have become a feature of the BBC Proms in recent years, despite specialising in jazz and not classical music. Although not a sell-out Prom, Buckley offered us “a big ol’ party”, and we acquiesced with a screaming standing ovation long before the finale.
Charles Mingus is a giant of jazz as a composer, bandleader and bassist, leaving behind reams of iconic material, including the standards “Moanin'” and “Better Git It In Your Soul”. For this Prom, with arrangements from a plethora of globally renowned arrangers reinventing Mingus’ often experimental and boundary-pushing music, the Metropole Orkest offered us an evening of highly accessible and endlessly inventive orchestral jazz.
Within the exquisitely detailed arrangements, the programme revolved around soloists. Baritone saxophonist Leo Pellegrino (from viral busking sensation Too Many Zooz) stole the show with his dance moves and synthesiser impersonations. Bart van Lier’s trombone offered some breathtaking cadenzas with physics-defying horse whinnies and whistle notes. Kandace Springs’ breathy jazz vocal brought untold soul to the songs, including Joni Mitchell’s well-known collaboration “God Must Be A Boogie Man” and Mingus’ own “Weird Nightmare”, replete with spooky, avant-garde orchestral effects.
It was sad to look over at the sizeable string section — who appeared to be working hard, playing flourishes and rhythmically interesting stuff throughout — and often not hear them over the drums and horns. The sound issues caused by the Royal Albert Hall’s washy acoustic, and gargantuan, diverse ensemble on-stage, will no doubt be solved prior to broadcast. Sound issues aside, this non-classical Prom showcased many world-class soloists and brought Mingus’ back catalogue to life with even more fusion and colour than the originals.
Broadcast on BBC Four, 25 August.