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Mark Anthony TURNAGE (b. 1960)
Scorched (1996-2002)
John Scofield (guitar)
John Patitucci (electric bass)
Peter Erskine (drums)
Hr Big Band
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hugh Wolff
Recorded live on 7 September 2002 at the Alter Oper, Frankfurt, Germany
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 474 729-2 [63’53]

 

The music on this latest Turnage offering effectively carries on from where Blood on the Floor left off. That work was also for jazz trio and orchestra (inspired largely by the same players) and with Scorched one gets the feeling that the jazz/classical fusion style that Turnage has been seeking so long, is finally found. The title puns on the words SCofield ORCHEstrateD (geddit?) and is basically a suite of fourteen numbers that alternate between the freewheeling improvisations of the trio, and ‘straight’ (though heavily jazz orientated) items from the orchestra and associated big band. The numbers are sometimes thematically linked, but I don’t really get the sense of a jazz-based triple concerto (as the composer reportedly thinks of this as), rather more of seemingly disparate groups of musicians sparking off each other in an enjoyable sequence.

The opening highlights the approach effectively. The orchestra begins with a short prelude entitled ‘Make Me 1’, where spiky dissonances and wide, angular leaps remind one of Stravinsky, or even Turnage’s own Three Screaming Popes. This is followed immediately by ‘Make Me 2’, where the trio takes up the music and play around with elements of it. Turnage’s heroes (both classical and jazz) are well known, and one senses the influence of Miles Davis and Gil Evans in what he is trying to achieve. I was also aware of the shadow of the great electric bassist Jaco Pastorius, a key member of Erskine’s Weather Report in the ’70s. Patitucci’s inventive bass lines seem modelled on the Pastorius style, and indeed Jaco himself always strove for a style that seamlessly mixed jazz and modern classical in the way Turnage does here. One particular number, ‘Trim’ had shades of the manic Pastorius composition ‘Reza’, which features on both The Birthday Concert and Live in Japan.

There are plenty of ear-tickling items, even if the success rate is uneven. ‘Fat Lip 1’, an orchestral scherzo devoted entirely to pizzicato strings, sounds a little like the third movement of Tchaikovsky 4 on speed. The blowsy harmonies and sleazy tune at the centre of the appropriately titled ‘Deadzy’ could be straight out of a ’60s detective B movie (maybe that’s the intention – a sort of cornball homage). When orchestra, big band and trio are truly fired up, the sparks do fly and we get a real sense of music making that abandons stylistic barriers and just gets on with being music, plain and simple.

The recording quality is excellent, and the event seems truly live, complete with the mandatory applause after individual solos. Good notes are by Nick Kimberly. Plenty for all Turnage fans to enjoy here, as well as those fancying something a bit different.

Tony Haywood

 



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