Jazz singer and Chamber Orchestra combine for “Starry Night

Laura Streyle

This past Saturday night, for the first time in 30 years, the elegant tone of the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra mingled with the foot-tapping pizzazz of a jazz ensemble, making for a knockout concert of collaborative music at Lawrence.
Professor of Music Dane Richeson helped create this link between orchestral and jazz worlds. He proposed bringing the newest orchestral program of the critically acclaimed jazz vocalist Jackie Allen, titled “A Starry Night,” to Lawrence’s 100th Jazz Series concert season.
Fred Sturm, director of jazz studies, and David Becker, director of orchestral studies, were both enthusiastic about giving students the opportunity to work with Allen, along with the chance to present new music to the greater Fox Valley community.
“I think it was a great success and I am very proud of the orchestra members for performing so beautifully. Jackie and the rest of her group were very pleased with the concert and with the attention given to the preparation of the arrangements,” said Richeson, who is the percussionist of the Jackie Allen Quintet.
To begin their section of the program, the four instrumentalists of the quintet summoned the combo’s singer onto the stage with their swaying introduction of “Lazy Afternoon.” Wearing a black cocktail dress and golden high-heel shoes, Allen tiptoed into her place at the center of the group, and the quintet was complete.
Allen teased the music out of the air with her hands as she sung. Pulling the microphone away from her lips and circling it around her face, she added alluring texture and dimensionality to her sound.
Her fun and sassy presentation was absolutely captivating, because she had more than vocal flair; she had the ability to listen and respond to the soulful musicality of the quintet. There was a visible appreciation between performers. After one of Moulder’s dizzying guitar licks, Allen pointed at him and squealed, “Yeah!”
She spoke to the audience in her low, whispering voice, saying, “I hope you realize how fortunate you are to have Dane Richeson. He brings so much to the music.”
The composed personality of the quintet gave the stage a small and intimate feel. The massive ornate form of the chapel organ easily melted away behind the group as they drifted from tune to lulling tune.
After intermission, the chamber musicians took their positions, and Allen reappeared wearing a beautiful evening gown.
“It seems kind of strange to sing with an orchestra in a cocktail dress, don’t you think?” Allen asked the audience.
Surrounded by a sea of strings and winds, the Jackie Allen Quintet played on into the star-filled night with selections such as “Stardust” and “Starry Starry Night.”
With a success such as this, it is certain that we will not have to wait 30 more years for a dazzling concert like this one to happen again.