CONCERTI REVIEW

Michael Houstoun (piano)

Rodger Fox (trombone, musical director)

 

It may seem an incongruous pairing on the face of it, but Michael 

Houstoun and Rodger Fox have something vital in common –– they 

love music, and it shows.

Their first recording together, Concerti is comprised of four 

substantial arrangements for jazz orchestra and concert piano that 

straddles two worlds to celebrate 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 on Concerti goes head to head with Rodger 

and his kick-ass ensemble for the full 12 rounds.

What happens when two maestros meet each other head on; two 

musical worlds collide, neither gives way but somehow each reveals 

something about the other that’s new!

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 Kōkī 

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).

The Rodger Fox Big Band needs little or no introduction. Under 

Rodger’s leadership, they’ve been at the cutting edge of jazz in 

Aotearoa for decades and their most recent album The Capitol 

Sessions (IA-1005), recorded at the legendary Capitol Studios in Los 

Angeles, is testament to their place amongst the best big bands in 

this part of the world right now.

So the stage is set. Let these brilliant, multi award-winning musicians 

take you on a journey somewhere new. You may begin as a lover of 

jazz or a classical music buff; however, you will emerge as a music-

lover.

Sit back and enjoy!