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Concert report: Equinox at Djanogly Recital Hall 4th April 2009

Left to right;  Jon Oldershaw, Nicola Pennill, Becky Deans, Alistair Parnell, Matt Lond, Gayle Lond, Michelle Phillips, Daniel Christian, Keri Degg, Kirsty Everett
Photo Andrew Pennill
Left to right; Jon Oldershaw, Nicola Pennill, Becky Deans, Alistair Parnell, Matt Lond, Gayle Lond, Michelle Phillips, Daniel Christian, Keri Degg, Kirsty Everett Photo Andrew Pennill

Part of the Nottingham University Lakeside Arts Centre, the 200-seat Djanogly Recital Hall has superb acoustics and has been described as "the best hall for chamber music in Britain". It therefore provided the perfect venue for an exciting performance by the Equinox Saxophone Ensemble. Not only creating the power and volume of sound to fill the hall, the group were also able to exploit the more subtle, delicate nuances of a very varied programme, and keep the capacity audience on the edge of their seats.

James Rae's Widor-inspired Toccata Brillante provided an uplifting opening, followed by five movements from Shostakovich's Jazz Suite No.2, arranged by Philip Skelton. A more reflective interlude was provided by Daniel Christian on tenor saxophone, featuring as soloist in a small group arrangement of Ennio Morricone's Gabriel's Oboe, before the full group returned for an assertive rendition of Michael Nyman's Queen of the Night. Director Alistair Parnell then took centre stage in Pedro Iturralde's exhilarating Pequena Czarda, arranged for solo alto sax and sax ensemble.

Subtle choreography and well judged support from Jon Oldershaw on percussion gave the group's version of Ravel's Bolero a special quality, much appreciated by the audience. (It's always a Nottingham favourite thanks to local connection of ice dancers Torvill and Dean). The Prelude from Grieg's Holberg Suite provided an opportunity for the group to show their capacity for subtle articulation and ensemble; they then were able to demonstrate lyricism and a lush string orchestra sound in Roberto Molinelli's Dreamy Dawn from his Four Pictures of New York, featuring Nicola Pennill on solo soprano sax.

One of the great strengths of Equinox is the variety of instrumentation within the sax family which they are able to call upon, and this range is particularly enhanced by Alistair Parnell's EWI (electronic wind instrument) playing. Surely one of the leading exponents of this challenging intrument, Alistair demonstrated its versatility in a solo performance of EWI and computer-generated accompaniment, and was then joined by the rest of the group to feature in Nigel Woods' Partial Eclipse for EWI and sax ensemble.

The concert closed with Harold Arlen's Over the Rainbow and an exciting selection of Count Basie numbers. Equinox produced the rich big band sax section sounds so associated with the Count Basie Orchestra, supported by a convincing lead trumpet sound from the EWI, and with great energy and precision by Jon Oldershaw on drums.

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