Taylor Eigsti and the Peninsula Symphony, together for the fifth year, created a night to remember on the weekend before the Super Bowl. In addition to being a Bay Area favorite as an amazing musician, he is also an avid San Francisco 49ers fan. What could be better than music inspired by the Bay Area and its football team?
This was the second year that I attended a January Peninsula Symphony Performance and it did not disappoint. Music Director and Conductor, Mitchell Sardou Klein explains that, “ Each time Taylor works with us to plan and perform an entire evening of symphonic/pianistic jazz it proves to be a fascinating process….This time we bring back the astounding guitarist (and long-time friend and colleague of Taylor’s) Julian Lage in several numbers that they wrote both together and separately.”
The blend of orchestral music and jazz was a delight. Surprises included, a jazz quartet, the introduction of a very young and talented pianist, a couple of football helmets well used to keep Taylor and conductor Klein from “a musical concussion”, and variations on themes in which the jazz group held the audience spellbound.
Taylor Eigsti visits bring with them many surprises, lots of energy and a very enthusiastic audience. This was my second chance to be part of that audience. Every aspect of this evening was compelling and satisfying. From the lecture before the performance to the last strains of Eigsti’s “Broken Lullaby”, the performance was remarkable.
The remarkable blend of beautiful symphonic strains blending with the jazz performers was seamless, and consistent due to the skill of Ron Miller, composer/orchestrator (and Peninsula Symphony clarinetist/saxophonist) The world-renown players that formed the jazz group included: Taylor Eigsti, piano; Julian Lage, guitarist; Luques Curtis, bass; and Obed Calvaire, drums, and they played renditions, singly and jointly that were beautiful, moving and powerful.
There was a very special moment of reminiscence and respect when Eigsti introduced his good friend and colleague, guitarist, Julian Lage. Their time together goes back to when Julian was 11 and Taylor 14, playing at the Stanford Shopping Mall. How far they have come!
More memorable moments - the use of football helmets that kept Taylor and conductor Klein from “a musical concussion”, and a new jazz compositions that held the audience spellbound, and brought them to their feet in enthusiastic applause.
The pre-concert talk was given by David Latulippe, who is also a KALW disc jockey:
The audience was treated to many fascinating anecdotes about Composer, Malcolm Arnold, the English composer who wrote the concert’s opening number “Roots of Heaven Overture” in 1958. It was a lyrical and lovely beginning. George Gershwin’s Variations on “I Got Rhythm” was a great transition bringing in the jazz players.
The selections that followed, included works by Mussorgsky, Brubeck, Lage and Hefti, Harbison, Eigsti, Lage, and Ellington, with arrangements by Ron Miller and Taylor Eigsti for the most part. The rendition of “I left My Heart in San Francisco” by George Cory & Douglass Cross arr Taylor Eigsti/Ron Miller was “an audience treat”. At one point, it felt like drummer Obed Calvaire could blow the roof off.
And to end the evening there was the lyrical, beautiful encore piece, "Broken Lullaby", written by Taylor Eigsti, and arranged by Ron Miller.
The orchestra is 67 years old and I happened to meet a friend, Charles Steele, at this concert who played with the Peninsula Symphony 30 years ago. He mentioned that in those days fund-raisers took the form of a masked ball. Not so today. These days, it is “On the Town with Peninsula Symphony” featuring Patricia Ward Kelly (Gene Kelly’s widow), Saturday, February 20, 2016
I look forward to more opportunities with the Peninsula Symphony.
Photos: Courtesy of the Peninsula Symphony unless otherwise noted.