Van Morrison’s Masterpieces
Vince Jones and The Astral Orchestra
Blue Mountains Theatre
Friday, 14 February 2020
Written by Barry O’Sullivan
Illustrations by Lyndon Pike
Australia’s foremost jazz vocalist Vince Jones is currently
interpreting the classic albums Astral Weeks and Moondance on
stage in a series of concerts throughout Australia. Accompanied
by the musical director Matt McMahon and his own Astral
Orchestra containing some of this country’s finest jazz
musicians, Jones led the celebration of the Northern Irish
singer-songwriter’s lyrics and most acclaimed albums.
Astral Weeks was recorded in 1968 with a jazz-infused lineup
of session musicians including the bassist Richard Davis
who performed with Sarah Vaughan and Oscar Peterson and
appeared on Eric Dolphy’s iconic Out To Lunch album, the
guitarist Jay Berliner, who recorded with Charles Mingus and
drummer Connie Kay who hailed from the East Coast bop
legends, Modern Jazz Quartet. Since its release, the album has
routinely been named in music polls as one of the best records
of all time.
Though never a mainstream artist, Vince Jones is actually very popular, demonstrated through album sales figures and the audience numbers he attracts at his live events. This concert was a sell-out and further concerts throughout Australia in the coming year are planned.
Heavily influenced by his Celtic roots and the jazz and blues music genres, Jones valiantly performed for an enthusiastic audience who were willing to lap up all that he had to deliver. Performance highlights included Paul Cutlan on flute and Phil Slater on trumpet on The Way That Young Lovers Do and a fabulous rendition by the ensemble on the romantic ballad, Crazy Love. Karl Dunnicliffe’s bass work on Ballerina, the oldest of Morrison’s songs on Astral Weeks, brought rippling applause from the congregated devotees.
Jones, always the storyteller, keenly added snippets from his own life to the web of messages that the songs contained and the bouncy beat of the last offering, Glad Tidings, performed full ensemble, with Morrison’s lyrics ‘and they’ll lay you down low and easy’ venting his distaste about the evils of the music industry and celebrity, had the audience on their feet wanting more.