IRON IN THE BLOOD
This has an enormity about it seldom associated with jazz. How could it be anything less when composer Jeremy Rose has created a musical adaptation of Robert Hughes’s monumental tome of Australia’s colonial genesis, The Fatal Shore? Excerpts of the luxuriant text are read by actors Philip Quast and William Zappa amid music performed by an 18-piece band under Rose’s direction.
The music is programmatic, but not obsessively so, and while most pieces contain a solo or two, these never pull focus on Rose’s intentions, which, like Hughes’s, are to humanise history, rather than leave it a maze of factual abstractions. Sometimes the narration functions almost like recitative in opera, and then the full force of the orchestra hammers home the drama once more. This is routinely ominous, menacing even, seething with the fear and cruelty that afflicted the Eora people and convicts, alike. Within Rose’s orchestrations for a conventional jazz big band his parts for Joseph O’Connor’s piano are especially effective at maintaining a tension that some would argue has now been at work for over 200 years.