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Wynton Marsalis Swing Symphony

Mariyon Slany

Renown jazz musician Wynton Marsalis headlines in Perth as part of the Perth International Arts Festival 2016.
Wynton Marsalis Swing Symphony


Wynton Marsalis' tribute to the history and players of this great music tradition is evident in his playing, choice of work, and his humble sharing of the stage. He is an internationally respected teacher and spokesperson for music education and was appointed Messenger of Peace by Kofi Annan in 2001.

The first part of the evening was the 15 piece ‘Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra’ performing a number of Jazz standards with Marsalis’ introductions. Technically brilliant and also soulfully smooth, Marsalis evoked an emotional response in every piece, starting with a Jelly Roll Morton work and slightly smaller group on stage. 

The Homage to Salvador Dali work had beautiful layers of sound and a wonderful interplay with two soloists standing up front. It was both technically superb and a very human piece of music; you could feel emotion in every note. For the famous George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue the band were seamless and the interpretation was fresh. There was a 1938 Duke Ellington work with a soaring crystal clear long solo from Marsalis. Their ensemble work was exemplary and brilliantly engaging. So to was the palpable enjoyment they demonstrated  on stage and as a consequence my enjoyment of it was hugely increased. 

After the interval we heard a magnificent creation of Wynton Marsalis’ Symphony No. 3: Swing Symphony supplemented by the full West Australian Symphony Orchestra - approximately 95 musicians on stage and certainly a sight to behold.  The buoyancy and energy in every note and the shimmering swing full sound intercut with high trumpet so clear it’s almost acidic soaring over 95 musicians and evocation of 1 920s style and use of syncopation and in another movement evoking silky dancing across endless ballroom floors 1950’s style and finishes with a plaintive sax solo just questioning.  The emotional evocation in the music was vivid. Marsalis writes for the whole orchestra and allows each instrument to be fully present but I must make special note of the muted trumpets which showed the extraordinary range of sounds for this instrument.

WASO performs more than 140 concerts each year, however I haven’t seen them as electrically engaged as this for a while. Conductor Christopher Dragon is currently the associate conductor of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, as well as his work with WASO, and vigorously demonstrates his talent in leading such a passionate group of musicians for the Swing Symphony performance. In the encores there was a gorgeous Happy Birthday for the first violin player in WASO with extended riffs from great jazz players and then in a second encore we heard from some of the WASO brass section in various solo improvised outings which was just fantastic.

They are moving onto Brisbane after these Perth gigs followed by a short New Zealand tour.  This is one event for jazz lovers and all music lovers not to miss.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wynton Marsalis’ Swing Symphony

Music Director & Trumpet Wynton Marsalis
Performed by Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra
Ryan Kisor, Trumpet
Marcus Printup, Trumpet
Kenny Rampton, Trumpet
Vincent R Gardner, Trombone
Elliot Mason, Trombone
Chris Crenshaw, Trombone
Sherman Irby, Saxaphones
Ted Nash, Alto and soprano saxaphones, clarinet
Walter Blanding, Tenor and soprano saxaphones, clarinet
Victor Goines, Tenor and soprano saxaphones, Bb and bass clarinets
Paul Nedzela, Baritone and soprano saxaphones, bass clarinet
Dan Nimmer, Piano
Carlos Henriquez, Bass
Ali Jackson, Drums

Symphony No. 3 Swing Symphony by Wynton Marsalis

Conducted by Christoper Dragon
Performed by West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra.
Perth Concert Hall, as part of Perth International Arts Festival, 3rd – 4th March 2016.  
Brisbane 6th March
New Zealand 10th – 12th March

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Mariyon Slany runs her own communications and art consultancy. Her formal qualifications in Visual Arts, Literature and Communications combine well with her experience in media and her previous work as WA’s Artbank Consultant for her current position as Public Art Consultant.