The SSO’s Sonic Evolution program also paid tribute to Ernestine Anderson in a program that featured three avant-garde orchestral pieces in the first half and more traditional jazz in the second, with the Garfield High School Jazz Band center stage.
Quincy Jones, one of Seattle’s favorite sons, has been nothing if not eclectic over the 70-plus years of a career that has included everyone from Lionel Hampton and Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson and Ice-T.
So it was only fitting that the Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s Sonic Evolution concert devoted to Jones Friday (Nov. 11) — and also to the late Seattle diva Ernestine Anderson — would cover wildly contrasting musical territory. The final concert of the Earshot Jazz Festival, the evening featured three groove-driven avant-garde orchestral pieces in the first half and more traditional jazz in the second, with the Garfield High School Jazz Band center stage.
It was not an unflawed evening, by any means, but the delighted, animated crowd reflected what was perhaps more important for a concert devoted to Jones — that all music can swell with joy, surprise and soul.
Portland composer Kenji Bunch’s “Groovebox Fantasy” wove popping pizzicati into an African quilt and Seattle trumpeter Cuong Vu’s “One” contrasted Vu’s lush, warm solo sound with percussion collisions and dynamic writing for the orchestra’s trumpet section. Florida-based composer Scott McAllister’s dark, melodramatic “Black Dog,” inspired by a Led Zeppelin riff that rumbled from the brass and featuring one too many clarinet cadenzas by Benjamin Lulich, felt out of place.
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Midway through this first section, SSO bassist John Green conducted snappy one-on-one interviews with each composer that lent a fun, casual mood to the evening.
After intermission, Jones chimed in via prerecorded video to say he was “touched” by the tribute, then maestro Ludovic Morlot faced the tough job of coordinating his nimble orchestra with a high school jazz band. That worked out fine when Seattle singer Grace Love nailed the ballad “What A Difference A Day Makes” but got messy when neither she nor anyone else could find the pocket on Anderson’s signature song, “Never Make Your Move Too Soon.”
The groove improved when the Garfield band, on its own, got the crowd clapping on the backbeat during Jones’ infectious, triplet-driven arrangement of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and stayed aloft when buoyant, bow-tied Seattle crooner Danny Quintero joined Garfield and the SSO for “Fly Me to the Moon.”
The highlight of the night was Garfield alto saxophonist Ben Lindenburg’s golden solo on Jones’ sinuous ballad, “The Midnight Sun Never Sets.”
When it was all over, the crowd leapt to its feet and would have stayed for an encore, had there been one.