Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: The Jazz Rites of Spring, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Kettle.
It really shouldn’t work, but it does, and brilliantly. Igor Stravinsky arguably set the tone for all the angular, dissonant modernist music of the 20th century with his 1913 The Rite of Spring and famously caused a riot in the process. Edinburgh-based jazz pianist and composer David Patrick unveiled his rethink of the work for jazz octet at last year’s Fringe, and if anything, it’s got even better since then.
It’s a hugely-ambitious undertaking – not only translating Stravinsky’s teeming mass of notes down from enormous orchestra to eight-piece band but also in making it live and breathe as a convincing piece of jazz.
But Patrick’s pulled it off magnificently. He offers a full performance of the complete Stravinsky score but pauses the action at key moments for the musicians to show off their soloist credentials, sliding elegantly in and out of The Rite so that you can hardly hear the joins. And it’s extraordinary how well Stravinsky’s abrasive harmonies provide a rich backdrop for their twisty jazz ruminations.
Patrick’s gathered a fine line-up of German/Scottish players, who clearly know the piece inside out. He pits braying trombone and trumpet against a softer ensemble of flute, clarinets and saxes, with a strong rhythm section coming fully into their own in a raw, pounding Augurs of Spring, syncopations flying all over the place.
There’s no denying it’s a demanding, exhausting hour of music – for audience as well as players – but at times Patrick’s Rite is simply spine-tingling in its power. And what it lacks in orchestral subtlety (check that out at the London Symphony Orchestra’s EIF performance under Valery Gergiev on Sunday 30 August) – it more than makes up for with gritted-teeth power and bloody-minded determination. It’s big, bold and provocative: you get the sense that Igor would have approved.
The Jazz Bar (Venue 57) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 27 August 2015
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