STROMA had subtitled its concert Jazz ain't Dead, it just Smells Funny and, as always, they produced an innovative programme of six new works, premieres and commissions under conductor Hamish McKeich.
Being part of the Wellington Jazz Festival the ensemble performed works with an avant garde, "new music" feel.
Stroma commissioned New Zealand composer Miriama Young for her work Learning to Breathe on The A Train in three easy Movements. With clever references to classical jazz works, it has lovely blues elements for piano and winds, with great saxophone from Rachel McLarin. Somewhere Submarine, by London-based David Prior, was a NZ premiere. Partly electronic work with vibrant, live piano, it resulted in striking sounds from pianist Donald Nicholson and provided a clever, atmospheric work.
Franco Donatoni's Hot! — another NZ premiere —- starts with mellow piano, double bass and drums, then heads to hot sax and brass. Wild and strident, it was vibrant with wit and humour. The Netherlands' Theo Loevendie brings wonderful sensibility to his Bons for improviser and chamber ensemble. Jeff Henderson's tremendous saxophone improvisations were exciting, the sax wailing over the harp, winds and piano.
The second world premiere commission Short Song Cycle for Chamber ensemble, by NZer Victoria Kelly, is a setting of Bill Manhire's Love Poem. It starts spare on strings with intensely beautiful cello. Singer Jordan Reyne created a moving sound world while lovely instrumental writing added flavour. The words were not clear, but the effect beautiful.
New York composer John Zorn provided the climactic work For Your Eyes Only, witty and clever, it was great fun. With a large ensemble, it has a powerful, chaotic opening and is interspersed with fragments from all genres - Latin American, big band, circus and brass band. Heavy pounding moments lead to rich lyrical ones, then flavours from the different genres, as well as rare trombone and piano lines with sweeping strings. Numerous percussion and sound effects - even a slamming door - added flavour and fun. Even in chaotic cacophony it was vibrant and exhilarating.
— Garth Wilshere, Capital Times, 30 October 2002