Review: A Celebration Of Artie Shaw

Review from our Cadogan Hall London concert - a great theatre show for jazz festivals and music clubs around the world. 

"The ideal repertory band takes a slice of historic repertoire and breathes new life into it by going a step or two beyond mere re-creation of records, while retaining a feel for period. The 26-piece Solid Senders, led by James Langton, former frontman of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, came close to that ideal in recreating the sound of Artie Shaw’s big band of the late 1930s and early 1940s.

 

Shaw, a much-married and famously irascible character who walked out on his most successful band at the peak of its fame, was rivalled only by Benny Goodman for the technical perfection of his clarinet playing. In Mark Crooks, Langton has found a player who can evoke much of that instrumental brilliance, particularly in his effortless negotiation of the altissimo register on Shaw’s set pieces Stardust and Concerto for Clarinet.


Crooks was backed by a band rich in period detail, including a sizeable string section, an innovation to which Shaw clung throughout much of the swing era, and which led to some particularly challenging arrangements, balancing the power of brass and reeds against the delicacy of the violins. Playing entirely acoustically, in the manner of the 1930s, the orchestra excelled on the piece that launched Shaw’s career, Interlude in B Flat. Crooks handled the changes in metre, tempo and mood with aplomb, and, like Shaw himself, made the quicksilver runs and leaps between registers sound nonchalantly easy.

The solo spotlight was shared with Louise Cookman, singing sultry vocals that sat perfectly amid the rich settings of the band. 

 

These were being heard for the first time in London, since, after recently moving to New York, Langton has been painstakingly collecting Shaw’s original arrangements. This was the first in a season of swing events at the Cadogan Hall, masterminded by the band’s drummer Richard Pite and on this showing the rest of the season should be well worth seeking out."   Alyn Shipton, The Times