Joanna MacGregor’s stunning new arrangements of fourteen of Moondog’s most famous pieces are re-imaginings for larger forces, with a spectacular line-up of some of today’s most cutting-edge jazz musicians, along with the brilliant Britten Sinfonia. Radically rewritten, each track retains Moondog’s irresistible trademarks – short and snappy, of the street, melodic and joyful, and characterized by a pounding beat.
Most of the second half was given over to Joanna MacGregor, firstly playing Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in F minor and then leading an augmented Britten Sinfonia through Sidewalk Dances, her witty arrangements of twelve pieces by Moondog. Moondog, if you’re not in the know, was a blind New York street musician who played his own music, often with instruments he invented himself, dressed as a Viking. His compositions, which are compositionally rigorous (often using canons) but also bright and poppy, deserve the serious attention they often receive, and MacGregor’s suite is a great way into his eccentric, joyous world. The Sinfonia were joined by Andy Sheppard on saxophones, Tom Herbert on bass, Kuljit Bhamra on tabla and Seb Rochford on drums for the Moondog set….certainly a truly appropriate celebration of Britten Sinfonia, epitomising not only their brilliance in performance, but also their commitment to bizarre genre-twisting projects and experiments.
Bachtrack, 20th Birthday Gala Concert at the Barbican
A triumph: the varied forces give Moondog’s obsessive riffs atmospheric lift; these dances are intoxicating.
MacGregor’s arrangements are exhilarating, and Sheppard and the Britten Sinfonia play with feeling.
BBC Music Magazine
A real treat from one of the most original musicians at work in this country.