That rare thing, an ovation for a contemporary work, happened at last night's Oakland Symphony concert in Oakland Auditorium Theater, and for good reason -- David Amram's Triple Concerto for Woodwind. Brass and Jazz Quintets and Orchestra is really an entertaining piece, alive and kicking, and sensible, too.
Amram, a rather pixyish 42-year-old Philadelphian who played French horn and Pakistani flute solos in last night's performance, has noted that "rather than having the jazz ensemble play AGAINST the symphonic group I have written a piece in which it functions as natural part. of the orchestra."
Therein lies a lot of the success of the concerto. Too often in this sort of piece the orchestra is simply the provider of fancy but dull floor-carpeting behind the more rhythmically alive jazz combo. Not so with Amram who has dove-tailed the elements so they activate together.
I was especially taken by the first movement, a big, rich, gutsy and lilting affair which juxtaposes modal harmonies from classic modern American symphonic music with jazzier elements. Some of this movement, with its cool, good beat, suggests the music for a French movie thriller (although the texture is thicker and more complex) and there were moments where I expected a screen to materialize with Jean-Louis Trintignant staring out at the audience.
Conductor Harold Farberman a maintained good charge of the complex forces tootling away on stage, and, partly because Amram has scored his music really to "sound," the Oakland Symphony made quite an impressive effect in this number.