Words & Music
Amram's 'Triple Concerto'
David Amram is a lively, versatile performer who plays anywhere he can be creative, from Tompkins Sq. to Philharmonic Hall. He is a composer in the same vein, from writing for Broadway plays to symphony orchestras.
Yesterday afternoon. on a commission from the Samuel Rubin Foundation, his "Triple Concerto for Wind, Brass and Jazz Quintets and Orchestra" had its world premiere by the American Symphony in Philharmonic Hall, Amram was on-stage as pianist, soloist on the French Horn, Pakistani flute and a small Near-Eastern drum, the Dumbek.
Kazuyoshi Akiyama, permanent conductor of the Tokyo Symphony and music director of the Osaka Philharmonic, led the piece as guest maestro, and will be on hand for the repeat performance Tuesday night at 8:30
On the Pakistani flute, which looks like an elongated piccolo and sounds like a combination of flute-piccolo-recorder, Amram astonished many of us at one point in the final movement, "Rondo a la Turque," by doing three things simultaneously: playing as ordinarily, singing, and clicking a different rhythm with his tongue, an effect simulating the sound of a plucked, stringed instrument.
With him as his jazz quartet soloists were Jerry Dodgian, alto saxophone. who had the most important solo part and should have been placed so that he could have been better seen and heard; Dodgian sat second in the lineup to Pepper Adams, baritone sax, whose role was secondary; Al Harewood, percussion. and Herbert Bushler, bass.
"Triple Concerto is a contemporary symphonic jazz adaptation of the baroque concerto grosso in which there are solo groups, rather than the later virtuoso concerto with its highlighting of technical display for one instrument. Amram, thus used two additional solo quintets chosen from the American symphony personnel: one solo woodwind, one solo brass. There is, besides, a large basic orchestra including a percussion section employing timpani, snare drum, bongos, tom-tom, scraper, timbales, ratchet, field drum, marimba. vibraphone, Parsifal chimes and several more.
A lot happens in this swinging, complex 30-minute concerto in which Amram designates periods of improvisation limited only by his basic harmonies. There is some sliding from tone to tone to make quarter tones which, according to Amram, are especially easy on the Pakistani instrument.
Movement "Allegro Robusto" has a likeable brash bluster that insists on too much going on at once and makes the listener strain to get it all without being overwhelmed.
The second movement, a blues, "Andante espressivo," is, by contrast, lightly scored and serves as a calm interlude before the racy finale, "Rondo a la Turque," In which Amram races with his flute in dashing manner and gets the entire orchestra stepping with him brilliantly to a festive conclusion.