A trip through the Lincoln Tunnel is part of daily life for many commuting New Jerseyans. And composer Bramwell Tovey tried to evoke that experience with his “Lincoln Tunnel Cabaret.”
He wrote the 12-minute piece in 2006 for Joseph Alessi, principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic, to play as a guest soloist with the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain. As explained in the liner notes to Tovey’s 2009 album Maestro, which featured Alessi on the work, “The listener might imagine that Joe, who commutes daily from New Jersey to Manhattan in his stylish open-top sports car, gets stuck in traffic at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel and decides to get out his ‘horn’ (as he calls it) and entertain the disgruntled crowd. In New York, anything can happen … Under a cocktail of jazz and minimalism, motives from the opening of the work provide the main musical material. The soloist is put through many virtuosic hoops until a final cadenza brings the piece full circle. Like all traffic jams, this one seems to disperse quickly for no apparent reason.”
According to Anthony Tommasini, writing in the New York Times in 2013, Tovey learned, after writing the piece, that Alessi actually commutes over the George Washington Bridge, not the Lincoln Tunnel, but he kept the title.
Below is a clip of Alessi performing the piece with the New York Wind Symphony, earlier this year.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.