Jazz and classical music would seem in theory to be oil and water—one is at its core an improvisatory art form that encourages individual expression; the other characteristically asks its participants to follow cues and reproduce written notation precisely. Nonetheless, jazz musicians have sought, for decades—to varying degrees of success—to find commonalities with their classical peers (and vice versa), and the pairing of the Wayne Shorter Quartet with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra promised at the very least to be intriguing for all the right reasons.
Orpheus, currently celebrating its 40 anniversary, is an unusually democratic classical ensemble, eschewing the use of a conductor and instead selecting a revolving core of musicians from within its ranks to lead each particular piece. During the first half of the program, the orchestra, on its own, demonstrated via performances of Beethoven’s “Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus” and Charles Ives’ “Symphony No. 3: The Camp Meeting” both the singularity one expects of symphonic music and a free-spiritedness that was exciting to watch.