An­niver­sary pro­gram shows mu­si­cians keep look­ing for­ward

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Peter Tonguette

The Colum­bus Jazz Orches­tra com­mem­o­rated its 45th an­niver­sary Thurs­day night at the South­ern The­atre.

Although the orches­tra has now of­fi­cially en­tered mid­dleage, the fresh, lively sound heard last night was any­thing but stodgy.

Led by Artis­tic Di­rec­tor Byron Stripling, the orches­tra brought sass, snap and soul to an as­sort­ment of works by com­posers rang­ing from Ge­orge Gersh­win to John Coltrane.

The con­cert opened with a set that spot­lighted in­di­vid­ual orches­tra mem­bers, in­clud­ing sax­o­phone player Pete Mills (go­ing for bold and brassy ef­fects dur­ing “Di­a­monds are a Girl’s Best Friend”) and Stripling him­self (lend­ing his bari­tone to “On the Sunny Side of the Street”).

Help­ing to keep the orches­tra young-at-heart are such

up-and-com­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors as pi­anist Micah Thomas, a 19-year-old Juil­liard School stu­dent (and Colum­bus Youth Jazz Orches­tra vet­eran) fea­tured last night.

Thomas had a mo­ment to shine with an evoca­tive solo piece, “Morn­ing Air” by Wil­lie “The Lion” Smith. The pi­anist ex­celled with its peppy pas­sages.

Other first-half high points in­cluded spir­ited per­for­mances of Duke Elling­ton’s “Car­a­van” and John Clayton’s “Speed Zone,” the lat­ter led by the com­poser him­self. “Speed Zone” be­gan in strik­ing, stac­cato-like fash­ion be­fore settling into a mu­si­cal di­a­logue between as­sorted in­stru­ments.

Af­ter an in­ter­mis­sion, guest sax­o­phone player Joshua Red­man was fea­tured on a sen­sa­tional set con­sist­ing of “Body and Soul,” “Song of the Un­der­ground Rail­road” and his own com­po­si­tion, “Jig-aJug.” With such di­verse tunes, Red­man con­veyed both emo­tion and ela­tion in his play­ing — some­times si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Com­poser-con­duc­tor Clayton re­turned for a world­premiere work meant as a show­piece for Thomas and Red­man. In the three-move­ment “To­mor­row Ar­rived To­day: The Home­com­ing,” Thomas and Red­man func­tioned as mu­si­cal vis­i­tors re­turn­ing home — as such, their play­ing stood apart from, but was fi­nally in­te­grated into, the larger orches­tra. The piece was an am­bi­tious knock­out — proof pos­i­tive that this an­niver­sary pro­gram was de­cid­edly for­ward-look­ing.

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