« Utter perfection that must have evoked big smiles on the lips in the part of Heaven where Svend Asmussen and Stéphane Grappeli hang out ». Pour le Vinter Jazz Festival à la Philharmonie de Copenhague, Fiona et Philippe Maniez ont arrangé le répertoire de Maelström pour le DR Big Band.
« Der var fed, fed lykke til alle i Koncerthuset » (There was fat fat happiness for all in the Concerthouse), Henrik Palle, Politiken, 6 Feb. 23
« It’s not everyday that you’re entertained by Irish folk, rearranged classical music from the first half of the twentieth century, funky blues and the Michael Jackson number ‘Smooth Criminal’ from the album ‘Bad’.
But that was the menu, among other things, as French-Irish Fiona Monbet and the DR Big Band dished up musical gourmandise. With her as supreme soloist, orchestra leader and Sprechtstallmeister, and the author of most of the repertoire. Truly an exciting acquaintance, one would like to see more of on these shores.
Fiona Monbet has the credentials in order. She graduated from the Paris Conservatory, has collaborated with guitarist Philip Catherine, among others, written film music and won several awards. And she not only plays jazz, but classical too.
It was quite clear from the outset that the chemistry between her and the DR Big Band was more than just right. Already in the opening ‘Overture for Copenhagen’, the interplay in the imposing room was sparkling. The rhythm section, led by pianist Artur Tuznik, was razor-sharp, and the rest of the ensemble sparkled with shining sound. This is truly a superb orchestra that manages to create the best setting for invited guests. The production was also superb. Initially there was a slight murmur, the violin appearing in danger of being drowned out by the winds. But it turned out to be entirely unfounded anxiety and perhaps just audible from the reviewer’s otherwise excellent seat in the first balcony’s eighth row centre.
The theme of the evening was joy, Fiona Monbet proclaimed. And it must be said that the concert lived up to that.
Yours truly has a personal sub-par for concert experiences: did I feel at times, or just momentarily, happiness because of the music. And in this case, it wasn’t just occasional glimpses, but many, many minutes of near-total euphoria. To paraphrase a songwriter from another genre, Kim Larsen, there was « fat, fat happiness for everyone ».
The diversity was underlined when Lili Boulanger’s ‘Vieille Prière Bouddhique’ faded into the room. Originally written for choir, it worked brilliantly in jazz musical guise, with Per Gade and Søren Frost allowed to shine elegantly. The latter in particular demonstrated his tactful sensitivity and almost blistering moderation.
Fiona Monbet is half-Irish, which she let show in both ‘Irish Gospel’, where the interplay with pianist Artur Tuznik’s impressionistic expression created a fine balance to Monbet’s angry folk tone, and the encore ‘Suite Irlandaise’.
Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ sat where it should, but also seemed a bit like a parade number. The distinctive bass line, the song’s main attraction, lost some of its vitality in the horn runs, but overall a fun piece.
All in all, the concert was a demonstration of superior interplay and exuberant musicianship. At no point playful, but neither arrogant, despite considerable difficulty in places.
Fiona Monbet is very welcome to return. Preferably soon.
©Photo Nicolas Koch Futtrup / DR