September 2006

Hard Rubber Orchestra
at the Guelph Jazz Festival
September 8, 2006Mitchell Hall Guelph
A Vibrant and Delicious Storm
by Tom Sekowski with photo by Roger Humbert
Referred to as the “Godzilla of the Vancouver jazz scene”, the Hard Rubber Orchestra was nothing short of a monster. With seventeen members squeezed onto what seemed like a tiny stage at Mitchell Hall (in the basement of St. George’s Anglican Church), they attacked Friday night’s audience with a ferocious growl. Not unlike Vancouver’s better known treasure — the Now Orchestra — this ensemble was packed full of ideas, bravado and fun. It was this overflowing plate of fun that kept them so interesting for the hour and a half they were on stage.

Under the leadership of trumpeter, composer and conductor John Korsrud, the Orchestra kicked up a storm that was vibrant and delicious all at once. Especially pleasing to the ears was the brass section. These guys were out of control. With a pompous, pumped-up attitude they went into battle as if their lives depended on it. Guitarist Ron Samworth had some noteworthy solos, but for the most part, he kept things simple. Three percussionists kept the beat lively and wild all at once. While the Orchestra was pumping out massive movements, the percussionists were playing lead roles in a sub-section of their own. One of the most unpredictable characters was a saxophonist (though I didn’t catch his name). This guy would stand on his chair and then mumble to himself about the difficult passages and solos he’s forced to play. Generally, this was the Orchestra’s wild card, the class clown.

While the music they played could easily be slipped into the big-band jazz category, as Korsrud reminded the audience, his Orchestra is actually known for performing new music pieces. (Korsrud himself has been commissioned to do works for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Loos, Combustion Chamber and numerous others). A couple of pieces that were performed near the tail end of the show highlighted the new music aspect. With quiet passages and a more minimal approach, the Orchestra would break into obtuse movements that came out of nowhere.
The element of surprise was big on their menu that night. As an audience member, I was never truly sure what was coming next. Would they break into sections and would each section solo, or would they allow a single member solo opportunity or would they just break into head-on chaos. Chaos came, but it came in waves and was organized neatly.

This wasn’t improvised music by any sense of the imagination. Hard Rubber Orchestra proved to be a highly structured ensemble that will hopefully (given the right amount of funds and discipline) be making bigger waves in the future.

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Tom Sekowski
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report
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