Vancouver Symphony Pops

High Class Brass

Dates 19 & 20 May 2006, 8pm Venue Orpheum Theatre

American Jazz Suite, Adventure Española, Gershwin’s "Summertime," Arlen’s "Over the Rainbow," Copland’s "Fanfare for the Common Man," and more

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Allen Vizzutti

It's always a delight to attend the VSO Pops series especially with Jeff Tyzik conducting. Jeff not only enlightens the audience with the background of the pieces being performed, but also adds to it his wholesome sense of humour.

He introduced his long-time friend Allen Vizzutti by recalling the days they were students at the Eastman School of Music 35 years ago. He was a sophomore and Allen was a freshman, and he thought he was the best trumpeteer in school until he heard Allen play in one of the music classes.

Allen Vizzutti is another funny character. In the first part of the show, he comes in with his dark suit, serious and all. Then he comes back in the next portion with an orange jacket, quipping: "My mother said that musicians don't make much money and that I had to fall back on another career. Well, I just came back from a real estate seminar."

This relaxed atmosphere is the kind of thing that takes out all the stuffiness in what used to be the "high brow symphony" attitude. In fact, when Allen played his trumpet, he was so at home with the audience that one got the impression he was just improvising. I guess it's just pure talent plus years of experience playing with such greats as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and Chick Corea. After playing "American Jazz Suite" (Allen's own composition), and exiting, Jeff joked: "He's out there now unwinding his tongue."

The piece I most enjoyed was Allen's rendition of the hits from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. The haunting tune of "Summertime" and the jazzy "It ain't necessarily so" simply delighted the audience. The next piece, Del Staigers' "Carnival of Venice" was introduced by Allen as "Carnival of Vancouver", wisecracking: "I get impatient with the traffic here."

Williams' "Olympic Spirit" was beautifully rendered by the VSO; you could almost imagine a montage of Olympic athletes competing in slow motion when you close your eyes to listen to this piece. Piazzolla's "La muerte del angel" and Vizzutti's original "Aventura Espanola" was like you were in Spain, as brass is so Spanish. And the sentimental "Over the Rainbow" by Arlen and Vizzutti was simply tantalizing.

Tyzik with his flair for the grandiose started the show with Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" with big percussive booms and the blaring brass sounds, and ended in almost the same style with an original Vizzutti/Tyzik interpretation of Falla's "Firedance."

This was truly an entertaining evening of high class brass.

© 2006 Ed Farolan