HARD RUBBER ORCHESTRA
HUGH FRASER QUINTET WITH STRINGS
Thursday, October 10
Vancouver East Cultural Centre
Hard Rubber were their usual magnificent selves. The band started off with a swing chart and then played a 9-movement orchestra piece written by Hugh Fraser. The pieces contained alternating movements of full-band sounds and instrumental duets. Notable were solos by Dennis Esson on trombone playing a beautiful muted ballad, an introspective duet by Rebecca Whitling (violin) and John Korsrud (trumpet), and a humorous exchange between Daniel Miles Kane (bari-sax) and Brad Muirhead (trombone). Hard Rubber finished with a blistering tune that saw Bill Runge (sax) and Vince Mai (trumpet) exchange hot hot solos.
The Hugh Fraser Quintet with Strings opened the night with a pile of cool bopesque pieces. I appreciate the fact that Fraser was experimenting by adding a string quartet to his regular quintet, but I found them a tad distracting. They took away from some of the spontaneous chemistry that makes a tight group like his so entertaining to watch. Still, there were some great solos in that set—notable were Fraser himself, who pounded the piano with expressive enthusiasm, and drummer Dave Robbins, who plays with such explosiveness at times that you get the idea during some of his climaxes that he will not be done till he snaps his drum-set in two with his sticks. It’s really something to see.
I can’t think of words to sum up this concert. After it was through, I had a conversation with a friend of mine, and he summed it up better than I could. To paraphrase: “Hard Rubber is, no question, consistently the best Vancouver band event you can see. It’s such a simple idea, I wonder who thought of it: ‘Hey… let’s get all the best jazz musicians in the city together and make a really big band. Hey, then let’s get all the best musicians/composers in the city to write for our band. Okay, now let’s play.’” I found that funny. Such a simple idea and it works so well.