New England Jazz Ensemble, Peter and the Wolf

by Sylvannia Garutch

“Peter and the Wolf” is given a new feel of swing that arranges the characters (played by the various instruments and specific melodies) into a big band style that flows, but most importantly, the rhythms and integration of the parts SWING.  The “Peter” theme is passed around the various sections, with nice chordal accents and band hit ornamenting along the way. Each section has its own color when playing Peter’s theme and is orchestrated masterfully. The band is perfectly balanced and the articulations and feel within each section is flawless. Combine all of this with a swinging rhythm section and Prokefiev’s music is transformed into a hip jazz suite that conveys Peter’s adventure in a whole new way. The narrator’s part has been modified to be more jazz like as well, but the original story and tone still comes through clearly. The modern “Jazzbretto” was written and narrated by Giacomo Gates. Jeff Holmes conducts the score. Walt Gwardyak’s arranging and orchestrating skills with the big band ensemble explores many different jazz styles including: Blues, Salsa, New Orleans Jazz, Cool Jazz, Jazz Waltz and straight-ahead swing. Resulting in a captivating story and score for introducing jazz styles and genres, to all audiences, for those familiar with the original and those who are hearing the sounds and story for the first time.

Inspired by things lupine, and the melodic lines of Prokofiev, the original composition by Jeff Holmes is a fun and creative composition that brings out many unusual colors from the ensemble. Holmes’ brings out Prokofiev’s melodies that are bird call like and surrounds them with ensemble sounds that are moving and colorful. John Mastroianni takes a solo that also builds on the bird call theme over the relaxed feel and subtle band backgrounds. A very hip muted trombone section interlude introduces Holmes piccolo trumpet solo. Holmes tone is warm, and his phrasing and ideas are clear and focused. The ensembles ability to perform these intricate melodies with uniformity in balance and articulation is a testament to their skill and direction.

Refreshingly jazz, yet true to the Prokefiev legacy, Peter and the Wolf steps forward and epic score for the next generation, while adding to the legacy with well-conceived adaptations and originals to adorn the masterful heritage of Peter and the Wolf.

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