by Tom Eckert
Anywhere else people might be skeptical that one of the best musical schools in the country might be found in a isolated rural centre. Not so in South Australia where the James Morrison Academy, which has been founded on the international eminence of its instructors including the eponymous James Morrison, takes in and fosters some of the nations best jazz talent.
Directed by and featuring James Morrison, the academy jazz orchestra has set out on a national tour to showcase their talents. Their 20-piece orchestra demonstrates a grand breadth to their repertoire ranging from Count Basie and Thad Jones to jazz arrangements of Latvian folk songs and original arrangements by the orchestra’s own members.
The orchestra itself is everything you could hope for in a big band. Tight, controlled and with a excellent dynamic range as well as capable of blistering bebop tempos, the soloists also demonstrate virtuosity that, whilst not at the same level as Morrison himself, would hold their own on any stage.
Perhaps most impressive is Morrison himself. Perhaps telling of his decades as a showman, Morrison’s schtick is seamless and casual. Perhaps one small criticism is his tendency to not hold back from the outset, leaving little room for the demonstrations of his superhuman abilities to grow through the show.
Her Majesty’s theatre left something to be desired in way of acoustics. Whilst projecting the bright tones of the band, a lot of the depth did not carry leaving one wanting for the depth and richness one can get in a smaller venue.
Another striking observance is that of 20 members, only two were female. Whilst a band of this caliber naturally has to be merit based, Morrison has an excellent opportunity here to promote the participation of women in Jazz, and the ways he could achieve this is worthy of some serious consideration.
Kryztoff Rating: 4K