Opera House, Wellington (3pm)
Sunday, June 11
One of the most intriguing musical collaborations of recent years has been that of Rodger Fox and Michael Houstoun. It works. And I know this from the recordings – but at this year’s jazz festival I finally got to see the connection, the collaboration. And it’s magnificent. They come from different worlds – big band jazz (Fox) and classical (Houstoun) and yet they both have this thing where the music, physically, flows through them. They are incapable of turning it off. Houstoun was like jelly at the piano stool when he was not playing, a shimmer and a swagger pulsing through his shoulder. Just as Fox, when conducting his big band, is the very embodiment of the music as it rolls down through his right shoulder and across to his left foot.
So, as with their previous pairings, Houstoun sat in with the big band for classical-jazz/crossover performances of Bach’s piano music, of commissioned works from Bill Cunliffe and then there were special guests too.
Erna Ferry sat in to sing the great blues staple, Born Under A Bad Sign. Visiting American blues guitarist and vocalist Chris Cain – a regular collaborator with Fox and the big band was brilliant in his turn too. His guitar playing exquisite, his voice great also. He offers a throwback to the great B.B. King style of singing with a horn section, of feeling each and every note.
And then there was the band. Brilliant. A fantastic repertoire, a great Sunday afternoon in their presence. It whizzed by. All of it. I could have sat for another hour. I wanted more. That hardly ever happens – I’ve usually had enough with any concert. But the way these musicians sold the sounds, and played their hearts out…I was hooked. I wanted more. And I love watching Michael Houstoun in this context. He seems reborn. Alive and lively.