Iron in the Blood Jeremy Rose & The Earshift Orchestra ABC/UMA This is an extensive work of broad musical, historical and narrative scope. It’s a musical adaptation of Robert Hughes’s iconic Australian historical work The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding (1986), complete with narration by Philip Quast and William Zappa.
Composer, conductor and saxophonist Jeremy Rose has orchestrated jazz-based music as exposition and ambience for this enormous work, assisted by funding from the Australia Council for the Arts, performed by Rose and the 18-piece orchestra.
As the cover notes by Paul Grabowsky state: “Rose’s music deftly summons up the provenance of the new arrivals [to Australia] with reference to folk song, fife and drum marches and a hint of the 18th-century drawing room.”
Australia’s early history is expertly portrayed in 11 tracks of uniquely blended narrative documentary and jazz composition. From the First Fleet’s arrival in 1788 through until Hughes’s words of summation, this documentary holds the attention on both musical and descriptive levels.
The arrangement features various solos throughout, notably Rose’s soprano sax alternately floating, climbing and drifting over the orchestra in Time Immemorial Pts 1 & 2. Numerous other solos feature Matt Keegan on tenor sax, Paul Cutlan on baritone sax, Callum G’Froerer on trumpet, James Macaulay on trombone and several others.
The music enlivens and dramatises the narrative, which at times is fearful and cruel and is occasionally uplifting, but the orchestrations always add depictions and dramatic illustration to this absorbing documentary.