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The Bryan Ferry Orchestra Captures 'The Jazz Age'

  • Doug Levine

FILE - English singer Bryan Ferry smiles during an interview in Berlin, October 12, 2010.

FILE - English singer Bryan Ferry smiles during an interview in Berlin, October 12, 2010.

What’s old is new again, a saying that rings true for an instrumental album by The Bryan Ferry Orchestra called “The Jazz Age.”

When you hear the name Bryan Ferry, 1920s jazz is probably the last thing that comes to mind. This especially applies to instrumental jazz, since Ferry is known primarily as a vocalist. However, for diehard fans of Bryan Ferry and his former band Roxy Music, a jazz album makes perfect sense, marking as it does the culmination of his lifelong interest in the form.

Ferry was drawn to music while growing up in northern England. An avid reader of jazz magazines, he also listened to his favorite groups on the radio. One of the first jazz records he ever bought was the hit song “Bad Penny Blues,” by British musician Humphrey Lyttelton. Later, he discovered the music of Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and Ornette Coleman. But it was the raw, New Orleans flavor of Louis Armstrong’s improvisations and Duke Ellington’s masterful arrangements that made the most lasting impressions on him.

Ferry says he was inspired by Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven groups, along with Ellington’s cool sophistication, as heard on Duke’s groundbreaking recording “Black and Tan Fantasy.”

​Ferry, 67, collaborated with his longtime music director and arranger Colin Good on “The Jazz Age.” Ferry does not perform on the album, which comprises instrumental versions of tunes gleaned from his Roxy Music repertoire and solo work.

In an interview with The New York Times, Ferry said it was necessary to change the tempo of several Roxy Music songs. He explained that “‘Avalon,’ for instance, is very slow and sultry in the Roxy version, and we tried it that way, but it didn’t work.”

He added, “When we lifted the tempo, it became a kind of Creole, Mardis Gras kind of thing, which is fabulous.”

The Orchestra also covers Roxy Music’s early hits “Do The Strand” and “Virginia Plain,” as well as “Reason or Rhyme” from Bryan Ferry’s previous solo release “Olympia.”

The upcoming “Jazz Age” tour will stop in more than 15 cities across the United Kingdom, including the New Theatre in Oxford and Royal Albert Hall in London.