Live from the Barbican: Shabaka Hutchings and Britten Sinfonia
Winner of a MOBO Award, the Paul Hamlyn Composer Award and Jazz Innovation awards from Jazz FM, the brilliant Shabaka Hutchings is featured at the Barbican with the Britten Sinfonia, under Geoffrey Paterson’s baton, as part of the online EFG London Jazz Festival.
Classically trained Hutchings (saxophonist, clarinettist, band leader and composer) is a notable star of the British jazz scene, adding ingenious innovation to the medium with his bands Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming and Shabaka and the Ancestors. The artist is also an important presence in London’s club culture, combining jazz with house, jungle electronic, dub and grime.
The superb Britten Sinfonia was formed with the intent of blurring divisions between classical and newer genres, producing a vigorous, modernistic, compelling musical experience, performed by leading UK soloists and chamber musicians. Led by Paterson, they introduce the fresh, guileless Americana of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring with a first movement of beautiful, melodious flux and a cadenza exploding with vivacity. Originally composed as a ballet and then rearranged as an orchestral suite, the work retains its freshness and a timeless appeal.
A brilliant rendition of Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo follows as Shabaka Hutchings exhibits his classical training and impeccable talent. Swelling into asymmetric harmony, the breathtaking sound is grasping, expectant, then a continuous ebb and flow, circling like a dance – an extraordinary, riveting display of musical achievement.
Next is a spirited improvisation by Hutchings, after which the soloist chats with conductor Geoffrey Paterson, remarking that Copland’s concerto – the conclusion to this evening’s concert – is more a “reflection on jazz” than pure jazz.
Hutchings’s rendition of Copland’s Clarinet Concerto is delivered with a style that is flawless and a true interpretation of the work’s intent, yet uniquely improvisational – a contemporary tribute that would likely have pleased the composer. Originally created for and performed by Benny Goodman, the piece is essentially classical with a whisper of jazz. It is structured as two movements connected by a cadenza: the first movement slow and emotive, followed by Hutchings’s powerful and captivating cadenza, which builds to the last section‘s energetic free rondo, culminating in a tremendously dynamic finale.
Evocative, pioneering, intriguing and exceptionally performed, this expressive concert by Shabaka Hutchings and the Britten Sinfonia at the Barbican was uniquely enjoyable viewing
Photos: Mark Allan/Barbican