It may seem an incongruous pairing on the face of it, but Michael Houstoun and Rodger Fox have something vital in common - a passion for music, and it shows.
Their first recording together, Concerti is comprised of four substantial arrangements for jazz orchestra and concert piano, straddling two worlds in celebration of a common musical language. The music is dynamic, passionate, and extraordinarily rich in terms of its compositional and performance qualities. Simply put, this band kicks! And riding the wave like a seasoned jazz veteran is the fearless Michael Houstoun, matching the ensemble note for note. If Michael's contribution stopped at the remarkable arrangement of the first movement of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, that would have been satisfying enough, but he goes head to head with Rodger and his full throttle ensemble for the full 12 rounds.
The combination of Michael Houstoun at the Steinway piano and Rodger Fox's suave trombone, with special guests and his Big Band in fine form, is a rare treat for listeners. Both musicians have a lifetime's experience and craftsmanship to bring to this project yet this is the first time they have been onstage and in the studio together.
A movement of Prokofiev's famous third Piano Concerto bristles in this arrangement by Grammy award-winning Bill Cunliffe (USA) for an 18-piece Big Band. Two other arrangements by Cunliffe, Fox's long-time friend and masterful collaborator, will be new to listeners but not for long. David Lisik, Rodger's colleague and a composer at Te Kôkî New Zealand School of Music, has arranged a Mike Nock work for this album. Mike and Michael, Nock plays Houstoun plays Nock, have already worked together at festivals around New Zealand and Houstoun recorded works by Nock on his award-winning album INLAND (RAT-D016).
1. Jazz Rondo - Composed and arranged by Bill Cunliffe. Michael Houstoun (piano, arr. Bill Cunliffe)
2. Raff Riff - Composed by Mike Nock, arranged by Dave Lisik.Michael Houstoun (piano, arr. David Lisik), Bryn van Vliet (tenor saxophone), Nick Granville (guitar).
3. Piano Concerto No. 3, Mvt 1 - Composed by Sergei Prokofiev, arranged by Bill Cunliffe. Michael Houstoun (piano, arr. Bill Cunliffe), Bryn van Vliet (tenor saxophone), Rodger Fox (trombone), Lauren Ellis (drums).
4. Warriors - Composed and arranged by Bill Cunliffe. Michael Houstoun (piano, arr. Bill Cunliffe), Rodger Fox (trombone), Anita Schwabe (Fender Rhodes).