Dick Oatts is a respected educator and player from America. An alto specialist, who in 1977 was shoulder-tapped to join the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. He’s also toured or recorded with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Joe Henderson, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Lovano and Mel Tormé.
Here in tribute to Charlie Parker – and in particular the 1950 album Charlie Parker with Strings, Oatts, joined by The New Zealand String Quartet, two horns and a rhythm section conducted by Rodger Fox, delighted the audience with a set of ballads and bop tunes.
Oatts was a quiet, gentle master, lightly dancing through standards like Billie’s Bounce, Ornithology and Embraceable You – his gorgeous waft of alto skipping atop the layers of melody.
Fox occassionally added his trombone, though his swinging shoulder and dedicated foot-tap is often enough to guide the tunes. The band was wonderful throughout. Rhythm section player (Lauren Ellis on drums, Rory Macartney on bass and Dan Hayles on piano) kept it stately throughout, allowing space for Eilish Wilson (baritone sax/bass clarient/flute) and Louisa Williamson (tenor sax/flute/clarinet) to play their supporting roles and for the strings to dance.
It really was an impeccable program – mixing the original scores with some newly commissioned charts, including three arrangements from pianist Hayles.
This was the opening night of a national tour. See here for the rest of the dates.
The show is deserving of an audience and praise – it really was a gorgeous tribute to some wonderful tunes. It’s another reminder of the huge talent we have here – and of the tireless work of player/promoter/conductor/arranger Fox. He is always connecting our own players with greats from the world stage. This was one of his very best programs.
Rodger Fox Presents… “Charlie Parker with Strings” featuring Dick Oatts
Memorial Theatre, Victoria University
Monday, April 15
The original review can be found here.