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Fox And Houstoun Create Musical Masterpiece

Fox And Houstoun Create Musical Masterpiece

Two of New Zealand’s pre-eminent musicians came together by chance.

Now that impromptu meeting is seeing a unique and musically ground breaking event in four concerts during May 29 - June 07.

Rodger Fox was in Christchurch with his 40th anniversary big band tour last September when he found piano supremo, Michael Houstoun, was also in the city.

Rodger suggested they catch up after their gigs but, when it wasn’t possible, they kept in email and phone contact. When the conversation touched on performing together they were both in harmony.

“I sent Michael a Prokofiev piano concerto, arranged for big band that I’d recorded a few years earlier. He came back to me 15 minutes later, delighted to do it,” Rodger said.

“We were both on the same musical page.”

Rodger then approached Grammy award winning composer, Bill Cunliffe, to score a new arrangement for the Prokofiev concerto. Not only did he create an iconic new virtuoso version for piano and big band, but he arranged two further pieces – Warriors and Jazz Rondo – for the national tour which began in April and ends in Wellington in June.

In addition New Zealand School of Music composition teacher, Dr David Lisik, agreed to arrange Mike Nock’s Raff Riff for piano and big band.

Occasionally classical and jazz comes together through the genius of George Gershwin but Rodger believes “this is the next step.”

“We have a concert crafted especially for piano and big band. This is a total creation for ourselves. It’s the first in New Zealand to my knowledge,” he says.

“It’s healthy. For too long there’s been a divide between the two genres. We’re now addressing that and pushing the boundaries in music.”

Rodger described the rehearsals as fantastic. “Michael came fully prepared and we met the challenge by being on top of our game. That’s something New Zealand’s foremost pianist does to you.”

“He’s had top placings in international piano competitions but he’s so versatile he can adapt to our world just as easily.”

Rodger has also adapted to the classical world. In his teens he trained to be a trombonist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra but, when his intake was cancelled, he answered an advert for a jazz trombonist and his life took a new path.

Now the paths of Rodger Fox and Michael Houstoun are intertwined as they take the same musical journey for the next month.

And they’ll leave a legacy for New Zealand listeners. Sometime during the tour they’ll stop off in a Wellington recording studio and lay down the four works for a CD due out at the start of June.

The Rodger Fox Big Band with guest artist, Michael Houstoun, performs at:

the Expression Arts Upper Hutt May 29,

The Manawatu Jazz Festival @ The Regent Theatre May 30,

Napier Jazz Festival at the MTG Century Theatre on Sunday, May 31

Wellington Jazz Festival - Opera House June 07 @ 3,.00pm


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