Live Music Review: John Burnett Orchestra w/ Frieda Lee
You wouldn’t find a nineteen year old like myself at a jazz concert. Typically, jazz is not a type of genre that my ear has favored. Rock, hip-hip, and techno have been the preferred genres of music that I have grown up with and established my career as an avid music listener. However, on the evening of June 22nd, I attended a performance at a small bar in Berwyn. This bar, called Fitzgerald’s, has been known to host popular big band groups every Sunday, along underground to widely known composers. After this performance, my view on jazz and big band music has been officially altered. Not only is this music interesting for the listener to follow, but it is also enjoyable to the mind which allows it to put a positive effect on one’s emotions.
As my mom and I entered the venue and paid the doorman, the band had just commenced their part. The bar room was dark, filled with many tables, and had the band tightly squeezed together on the stage with the piano player off to the side below the stage, as well as the famed radio host, John Burnett, who is the conductor of the band, front and center. The crowd ranged from young children to elderly adults who were particularly fond of the pieces that were played. I am assuming the reason for this enthusiasm was due to the fact that many of the pieces were popular throughout their childhood and teenage years. Even though the crowd sitting down at the tables featured a wide variety of ages, the looks on each of their faces were not of disdain. At one point during the show, several middle aged adults stood up and started swing dancing to the songs, closely matching their movements to the increasing and decreasing tempo of the pieces, as well as the beat. I felt as if I was sent back in time to a vintage jazz club in New York from the early 1900’s.
Even though there was no official program or track list sheet for the audience to follow along, John Burnett announced the titles of each of the pieces that the symphony was about to perform. I was also fortunate enough to sit by a middle-aged couple that was very knowledgeable about jazz and classical music. The husband was able to tell me the names of certain songs along with any special solos or parts of the tune I should keenly listen for. The first piece being played was titled “Big Swing Face”. The Buddy Rich Big Band had written it. The song started out with a loud dynamics because of the “booming” brass sounds of trumpets and trombones. The sound dynamics quickly softened and switched to a moderate tempo pace about thirty seconds into the piece. I easily identified the meter, as the song was played in 3. Now, the mood had a casual, laidback vibe to it. The pianist played a solo accompanied by the talented percussionist. Though the piano part had a swift sound, the overall tone color was light and relaxed. Next, the tenor saxophone player stood up to do his solo performance. His play was at a much faster rhythm than the rest of the band. Along with his sped up tempo, he drew out his notes which varied from mid ranged squeak-like pitches, to slightly longer and higher sounds like the ones heard in the opening title to the “James Bond” movie collection.
The band took a very short break to flip through their songbooks as John Burnett announced the next song the orchestra was to play. As they were doing so, the fabulous singer, Frieda Lee, appeared from behind the stage. She cheerfully greeted all of her fellow band members as well as showing her appreciation to us, the audience, for listening to her perform. The song Frieda performed with the piano and a saxophone as accompaniment was “I’ve Got a Crush On You”. The tempo the piano played at was adagio. In the beginning of the piece, only the vocals and one line of music was played, making the texture homophonic. The climax of the song was easily noticed when Frieda and the pianist halted play...
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