Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Dates and Venue 31 May & 1 June 2013, 8pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor Jeff Tyzik Featured performer Byron Stripling - trumpet/vocals Guest musicians Bobby Floyd - piano & B3 organ, Bob Breithaupt - percussion, Rene Worst - bass, Jack Stafford - saxaphone

Reviewer John Jane

Just a few minutes after eight-o’clock, charismatic performer Byron Stripling walked out onto the Orpheum stage with Jeff Tyzik, waved at the audience, then immediately blew his horn to the strains of “After You’ve Gone” (and left me crying). Stripling is such a frequent featured performer with the orchestra that Maestro Tyzik felt he that had no need to introduce him.

Unlike most guest musicians that come to Vancouver to perform with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Stripling remained on stage for the entire concert. He even gave the Maestro a night off from compère duties, no doubt believing that he had the best handle on music originating from “the birthplace of jazz.”

After the opener, the trumpet-master wasted little time in bounding straight into a spirited “Bourbon Street Parade” and a rumbling version of “Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child.” Stripling then went on to combine his singing chops with his amazing horn-blowing with a bluesy Satchmo-style rendition of "St. James Infirmary Blues" that featured a saxophone solo by guest musician Jack Stafford.

Stopping for a moment to catch his breath, Stripling revealed to the audience that he and the orchestra would be performing music that pays homage to Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton – three paramount exponents of New Orleans jazz.

The second set saw young clarinetist Jeanette Jonquil and trombone player Matthew Crozier join the irrepressible entertainer at centre stage for a couple of Jelly Roll Morton tunes: “Jungle Blues” and “Black Bottom Stomp.”

The hitherto frantic tempo, suddenly downturned with Bobby Floyd’s piano solo of an unconventional variation of "Battle Hymn of the Republic." I found that Floyd’s over-extended, heavily improvised interpretation was a trifle indulgent.

Fortunately, Maestro Tyzik and Byron Stripling picked up the pace again with a slick rendition of "Blueberry Hill." The definitive interpretation of this song is undoubtedly by New Orleans native, Fats Domino, but it’s been covered by everyone from Gene Autry (the original) to Vladimir Putin (the Russian premier).

Stripling’s final vocal homage to the late, great Louis Armstrong was with “What a Wonderful World.” The trumpet player performed it with all the honest-to-goodness optimism of Satchmo’s original.

Byron Stripling, Maestro Tyzik and the orchestra marched off the stage to a Larry Cook arrangement of “When the Saints go Marchin’ in” leaving only Bobby Floyd, Bob Breithaupt and Rene Worst behind to play the last twelve bars.

© 2013 John Jane