MCCS: Matt Ford and Ensemble

Tuesday 8th November 2022

‘I Get a Kick out of You’ by Cole Porter is from the musical ‘Anything Goes’ and, in its original form, was a foxtrot, in lay terms; medium pace, about 104 bpm. In the hands of Matt Ford’s Ensemble it was mutated into a driving, fast swing number around 200 bpm. This is not untypical of the treatment which songs from this era receive and are none the less for it. One has only to think of Jamie Cullum’s version of the same song which has a driving almost funk like bass line. Quality songs, and particularly the ones we heard last night at the Matt Ford – King of Swing concert, can cope easily with being reset by changing pace or feel and this is testament to both the music but also the skill of the arranger(s).

And what arranging we were privileged to hear! Matt’s ensemble consisted of a standard three piece rhythm section, a harp, a string quartet, trombone and reeds – the unbelievable skill of each player resulted in a superb, tight, exciting sound. Callum Au as the trombone was quite imperious but Callum Au as the arranger was world class; beautifully realising some of Nelson Riddle’s scores set for Frank Sinatra for a much smaller ensemble than Riddle has access to.

It’s invidious to pick out individuals in, what was, a brilliant team effort and equally impossible to pick out a favourite number as everything and everyone was outstanding, so I will pick out my notable moments and impressions. Matt Ford comes from the latest generation of vocalists who, alongside Michael Bublé, Jamie Cullum and Harry Connick Jnr, are carrying the baton handed to them by Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Nat ‘King’ Cole and others, and Matt does it with absolute aplomb. Like the greatest, it just feels like he’s having a conversation. I also like the sense of him being a front man but not a lead man, just a team player. It was great to see the versatile Philip Dukes on viola; a few weeks ago he was on the same stage playing Mahler with the Wigmore Soloists but, typical of Mr Dukes – everything is treated with the same level of respect and as a result of his world class skill and meticulous preparation, we were treated to some sumptuous, stylish and mellifluous playing. Every chair was occupied by consummate professionals including the sound box in the hands of James Watson, our audio visual specialist, and we in the audience were the richer for the experience. The author was born in the wrong era…

Alex Arkwright
Head of Instrumental Studies

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