Fox/Houstoun Masterpiece is going ahead.
It’s taken longer than expected, but a world premiere featuring two of New Zealand’s pre-eminent musicians is going to happen.
Classical pianist, Michael Houstoun, and jazz impresario, Rodger Fox, were working on new arrangements of music by Canadian great, Gino Vannelli, when New Zealand went into lockdown.
It was a stressful time for both musicians as they balanced performance opportunities with self- isolation and the need, like all New Zealanders, to stay safe.
They both had itineraries which would reactivate when New Zealand returned to Level 1. However, after phone calls and emails, Michael and Rodger agreed the world premiere would go ahead with five performances so far booked from September through to November.
The acclaimed concert series, entitled The Houstoun-Fox Project, will open in Palmerston North on September 20 with a final performance scheduled for Napier on November 22.
While Fox and Houstoun have both performed before, there’s something very different and special about this concert series. Instead of playing jazz adaptations of classical pieces, Michael will perform the premiere of music written especially for him.
When he confessed that one of his favourite artists was Gino Vannelli, Rodger asked internationally acclaimed composer/arranger, Bill Cunliffe, to arrange two of Gino’s most enduring numbers, Brother to Brother and Storm at Sunup, for him.
The concert, at The Globe in Palmerston North, is the first occasion the arrangement with Big Band accompaniment will be heard. Michael will also play Warriors, a Bill Cunliffe original. In addition, the event will showcase a rhythm/vocal version of Charles Trenet’s I Wish You Love, sung by Erna Ferry with Michael on piano.
The Big Band will feature material from their New York studio recording of New Zealand original compositions and supremo blues vocalist, Erna Ferry, will present three awesome New Zealand numbers, Sensitive To A Smile by The Herbs, You Gotta Know by Supergroove and Carry My Blues Away by Mike Farrell, recorded by Midge Marsden.
Following The Globe event, The Houstoun-Fox Project, will perform in Auckland (October 26), Blenheim (November 7), Nelson (November 8) and Napier (November 22).
Earlier this year, the Rodger Fox Big Band with Erna Ferry gave two standing ovation concerts in New Orleans and New York followed by a recording session. The stand-out numbers chosen for this tour are a result of that recording session.
There’s a further reason why the concert series is a must. Michael Houstoun decided he would retire at the end of 2020. While he might relax the date because of Covid-19, this musical masterpiece will be one of the final times New Zealand audiences will experience his exceptional talent.
Classics and jazz have occasionally come together through the genius of George Gershwin, but what Rodger and Michael are doing with this world premiere is, by far, “the next step.”
“Our concerts are crafted especially for piano and big band. This is a total creation for ourselves. It’s the first time in New Zealand to my knowledge,” Rodger Fox says.