06 Jan NYC Visit
I have been incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to travel, and 2013 was a big travel year for me! I was very fortunate to visit two cities that have some of the greatest arts scenes in the world – Los Angeles (see previous blog) and last month, New York City! I witnessed such a diverse range of music and performance in NYC, one of the many special things about this city. I wonder if NYC has the highest % of citizens playing instruments at subway stations:
First up was the amazing New York Philharmonic, playing an all Dvorak programme – I didn’t care much for the violin concerto (despite the brilliance of Anne-Sophie Mutter), but the Carnival Overture and Symphony No. 9 were just great. We had a seat at the back but the acoustics in Avery Fisher Hall are such that it didn’t matter:
One of the things that struck me about this performances was how the orchestra handled the ‘tricky’ bits – perhaps stating the obvious, but the NY Philharmonic nailed these passages with such precision I hadn’t heard before. This was one of their last concerts before their Xmas break so I was happy to catch them.
Next up was Jazz at Lincoln Centre – jazz playing at its finest!
The JLCO were playing jazzed up Christmas Carols and other festive/traditional tunes arranged by band members – demonstrating their skills as writers as well as performers. It must be amazing to have your own chart played by these guys. Special mention must go to Elliot Mason for a killer trombone solo. Man. He sat there all night playing his part while everyone else had their moments, then on the final number he took a few choruses and really caught my ear. I think its harder to impress on jazz trombone for some reason. This guy can play!
The next morning we saw the Rockettes! What a great show! I had no idea what to expect really (apart from high-kicks) but the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featured many a variation on well-known Christmas carols – not dissimilar to what the JLCO did – but in a way that suited the extended dance routines designed for the company’s precision dancers. It was quite cinematic too, with a large digital screen backdrop that even gave the audience a fly-thru NYC with Santa and his reindeer complete with 3d glasses. With a live orchestra of 30-40 players (seated in the pit but ascended for applause in this photo), I was reminded of one of the authors of my big-band text books – Rayburn Wright (no relation!) – he was music director at Radio City Music Hall for many years. Doing all these extended arrangements would really get your writing chops up. I can’t wait to write for dancers one day. It’s on my music buket list.
One of the amazing things about the NYC arts scene – in addition to jazz and classical music – is the musical theatre, something only London can also claim. I was fortunate enough to see Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Wicked, The Book of Mormon and Matilda – all 4 were great shows. We studied songs in 3 of those musicals in the class that I teach, TS310 (Music in Theatre), so it was great to see those songs live on stage in front of me. And guess what – if you know the show, (or if you watched last years Tony Awards) you’ll know that during the song ‘Revolting Children’ the kids take out paper planes from their desks and throw them into the audience – WELL one of those paper planes flew straight into my lap! Score! I have kept it as a souvenir 🙂 Its the report card for Bruce Bogtrotter.
In addition to picking up some big band CDs at The Jazz Record Centre – possibly one of the few CD stores in the world that sells only jazz CDs, I also got to hear John Mayer in Brooklyn 🙂 His first 2 albums are my favourite and these days he is playing mostly his recent stuff, but still a great performer and a beautiful backdrop he used too.
In New York you’re always missing something, and performances that I wanted to see but DIDN’T include First Date (featuring Krysta Rodriguez from the 2nd series of SMASH), Waiting For Godot, and numerous jazz gigs. I also missed fellow Perth and Miami trained tenor saxophone player Troy Roberts! Not to mention not exploring any other dance performances apart from the Rockettes, awesome museums and food etc…..Guess I’ll just have to go back?
In some ways I still think I prefer L.A, but for sheer quality and diversity of arts performances on offer, it really is hard to top the big apple. Have a fab 2014 everyone, over and out 😉