Only in Los Angeles could such a bewilderingly diverse collection of composers and performers be assembled, spanning television, film, theater and jazz in a patchy yet sometimes inspired series of performances.
Concert was a benefit for a music-awareness program that the presenting Composers & Arrangers Foundation of America plans to introduce to schools in greater Los Angeles. As if to underscore the point, the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra — normally a symphonic training ensemble — was brought in, and despite some undernourished string tone, did a capable job working in several idioms under several conductors.
The event was emceed by Elmer Bernstein (filling in for the ailing Henry Mancini) in the first half, and droll Dudley Moore in the second.
At its best, the concert imaginatively gave some composers a chance to shine in unusual settings. Herbie Hancock, in a rare solo piano appearance, played his soulful, adventurously reharmonized treatment of “‘Round Midnight.”
Earlier, Hancock’s now-and-then partner Wayne Shorter performed a typically long-limbed, twisting melody line, “Mahogany Bird” on soprano sax with full orchestra backing.
Not many of us knew that David Raksin, the composer of “Laura,” was a singer — and at 81, he still sings, offering a charming rendition of his classic hit. And composer John Williams, also a highly regarded pianist, returned to the keyboard, sensitively accompanying an expressive 13-year-old violinist Tamaki Kawakubo in his Brahmsian “Remembrances” from “Schindler’s List.”
The most electricity was generated by veteran John Raitt, who has probably done the “Soliloquy” from “Carousel” more times than anyone can count yet still belts it with amazing freshness and virile showmanship. Other fun moments: Ray Pizzi’s jaunty effort to get the young orchestra to swing the “Pink Panther” theme and Van Alexander’s jumping adaptation of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”
Less interesting were several orchestral themes and medleys from film and TV scores of varying quality.