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Ellington's 'Nutcracker'

Coldstream Guards Jazz Orchestra
Regent Hall
Friday 13th December


The Coldstream Guards Jazz Orchestra took on a daunting task in presenting Duke Ellington's `Nutcracker Suite' – itself an iconic jazz reworking of the Tchaikovsky suite that was originally released in 1960 to include the talents of the likes of Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney and Juan Tizol.

It was a fine effort, with Sgt Rachel Smith's humorous narration helping things along from the opening very un-Tchaikovsky-like harmonies of the ‘Overture’ and through the series of ‘Dances’ - starting with the 'Dance of the Reed Pipes' leading into 'Toot, Toot, Tootsie Toot', with the melody split between clarinets and saxes.

Familiar strains

The 'Peanut Brittle Brigade' march, something of a cross with 'Rocking in rhythm', including a trumpet solo by L/Cpl Bobby Blencowe and ending with tenor sax led into the familiar strains of the 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy' and 'Sugar Rum Cherry', with L/Sgt Dymott playing the drums with his hands rather than sticks, and a tenor sax solo against the theme on brass. 

The 'Entr'acte' was comparatively straight, with alto sax joined by baritone before the brass took up the theme to back solos by tenor sax and trombone.

As an encore Stan Kenton's 'Christmas Overture', was a piece of robust festive fun and rich harmonies

‘Volta Vouty' was their take on the 'Russian Dance', before ‘Chinoiserie'  was played with clarinet and tenor sax taking alternate bars. 'Dance of the Floreadores' was a 4/4 variant on 'Waltz of the Flowers' featuring the whole ensemble. 

Gallery edge

Rachel Smith took up her piccolo for 'Arabesque Cookie', which also featured bass clarinet, whilst Bobby Blencowe took up the tambourine, meandering around the stage and ending up perched on the edge of the gallery, where he played the final note of the piece following a short string bass solo.

As an encore Stan Kenton's 'Christmas Overture', was a piece of robust festive fun and rich harmonies (with high trumpets in 'The First Nowell' ) with a confident ending with a far from silent 'Silent Night'.

Peter Bale

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