Review by Judith Caldwell
The penultimate concert in the 2017 Brott Music Festival was an evening of music inspired by the James Bond movie franchise. It featured the National Academy Orchestra conducted by the NAO’s artistic director Boris Brott, and Roï Azoulay, this years’ apprentice conductor, plus the Jeans ‘n Classics quartet of John Regan keyboard, Jeff Christmas (drums), bassist Mitch Tyler and Peter Brennan on guitar, whose arrangements of the Bond tunes were spectacularly good. Also on the bill were Rique Franks whose rich contralto perfectly suited the music, and Neil Donnell who has a chameleon voice which he used to mimic Marvin Gaye, Louis Armstrong and Duran Duran among others.
The strings in the orchestra were miked which gave them a modern techno vibe admirably suited to the music. Most of the music was composed for one of the 18 Bond films, but four of the tunes played were from the Austin Powers Bond spoof The Spy Who Shagged Me. The concert opened with the original James Bond Theme from the 1962 Dr. No movie which set Sean Connery on the road to stardom and gave the brass players a good workout. Next Franks gave us two very different Bond tunes, 1967’s hopeful You Only Live Twice and the much darker 2012 Skyfall originally sung by Adele. At this stage the concertmistress, Megan Jones showed her 007 credentials by ‘shooting’ Brott to allow Azoulay to take over conducting duties. Donnell offered two contrasting Bond tunes too, ‘Thunderball’ from 1965 and the much grittier Daniel Craig 2012 song, ‘You Know My Name’. Franks channeled 1981’s ‘For Your Eyes Only’ and the Cheryl Crow composition ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’. Donnell did an amazing take on Louis Armstrong’s We Have All the Time in the World, while Andrew Lennox handled the trumpet solos. Emcee John Regan in his intro talked about Diana Rigg in’ On Her Majesties Secret Service’ and inadvertently let slip that her current character in Games of Thrones had been killed off, which drew a few gasps from obvious fans. The first half wrapped up with very dramatic rendition of Another Way to Die.
Brott, having miraculously recovered from being shot, took the podium again for the second half and began with ‘Bondoverture’ or more Bondage as he called it. This was a marvelous Brennan arrangement of many of the Bond themes played with obvious enjoyment by the full orchestra. Donnell turned in a falsetto rendition of Writing’s on the Wall and both vocalists led a singalong version of the Monkeys’ Daydream Believer from the Austin Powers movie. Then Donnell channeled Marvin Gaye in Let’s Get It On, again from Austin Powers. Franks sang the Burt Bacharach classic “The Look of Love” from 67’s Casino Royale, and ‘Time of the Season’ from Austin Powers. The program wrapped up with Donnell singing Duran Duran’s “A View to Kill”, Franks singing Marvin Hamlisch’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’ and both vocalists doing Paul & Linda McCartney’s ‘Live and Let Die’. The evening was so much fun that an encore was needed so Franks sounded very like Shirley Bassie in ‘Goldfinger’ – one of this scribe’s favourites. This was an evening of excellent musicianship… the orchestra gave their best shot; the arrangements were brilliant; the soloists were just right for the music. Jeans ‘n Classics are gifted and John Regan was an excellent Emcee.
The final 2017 series concert is on Aug. 17th at First Ontario Concert Hall.