Vivaldi would probably have loved it: Jazz clarinetist Eddie Daniels playing the violin solo passages in "The Four Seasons" with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Just the sort of adaptation that the Baroque master (who composed 500 or so concertos, and who wasn't adverse to occasionally modifying the same work for different instruments) might have done himself.
One could even make a pretty good case for the fact that the Daniels-Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra programs--titled "Baroque Meets Jazz" and performed Friday at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center and Saturday at the Alex Theatre--represented a more typically Baroque approach to "The Four Seasons" than is usually heard. Daniels' proficiency as both a jazz and a classical player allowed him to execute the piece with the kind of freely adaptive ornamentation, embellishment and outright improvisation that would commonly have been heard in the early 1700s.
Daniels managed the rendering of music originally conceived for violin with extraordinary effectiveness. The breath-defying passages in the allegro of "Spring" and the allegro non moltos of "Summer" and "Winter," the rapid fire lines of the presto from "Summer," the allegro from "Autumn" and the closing allegro from "Winter" were handled superbly, with barely a tiny glitch or two to interrupt the music's flow. In the slower adagios and largos, the warmth of Daniels' middle register added expression and eloquence to segments which--in typical performances--sometimes elude the programmatic intentions of the composer.
Although Daniels was also accompanied by a rhythm section of Alan Pasqua, piano, Steve Houghton, drums, and Dave Carpenter, bass, the interpolated jazz passages too often sounded intrusive. The arbitrary insertion of straight-ahead jazz rhythms into orchestral compositions has plagued jazz/classical mergers since the Third Stream years of the '50s and '60s, and it doesn't work any better with "The Four Seasons."
Considerably more convincing were the segments in which composer Jorge Calandrelli, who rearranged the work, used the rhythm players as supportive undercurrent to the orchestra. Best of all was their participation in a brisk re-setting of the melody in the first "Summer" allegro that completely justified its jazz-like phrasing.
A contemporary-styled "Fifth Season," composed by Calandrelli, appended an unnecessary and out-of-context movement to the Vivaldi. It's hard to understand why it was there.
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, crisply conducted by Bernard Rubenstein, provided splendid creative companionship.