The Nice – Five Bridges (1970)

FrontCover1The work was commissioned for the Newcastle Arts Festival and premiered with a full orchestra conducted by Joseph Eger on 10 October 1969 (the recorded version is from 17 October in Croydon’s Fairfield Halls). The title refers to the city’s five bridges spanning the River Tyne (two more have since been built over the river), and the album cover, by Hipgnosis, features an image of the Tyne Bridge.

The five movements are:

Fantasia – orchestra with solo piano interludes by Keith Emerson
Second Bridge – trio without orchestra
Chorale – Lee Jackson’s vocals with orchestra, alternating with piano trio interludes
High Level Fugue – piano with accompanying cymbals
Finale – a restating of the Second Bridge with additional jazz horn players.

The most elaborate orchestral writing is the Fantasia, but even this is fairly rudimentary, which is understandable as it was Emerson’s first foray into this medium. Emerson credits Friedrich Gulda for inspiring the High Level Fugue, which uses jazz figures in the strict classical form. The suite was recorded at a concert performance.

Also included on the Five Bridges album were live performances from the same Fairfield Hall concert of the Sibelius Intermezzo and a movement from Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony. Both involved the orchestra playing the “straight” music juxtaposed with the trio’s interpretations. Newly discovered material from this concert was later issued as part of a 3-CD set entitled Here Come The Nice.

The Five Bridges album also included a blending of Bob Dylan’s “Country Pie” with Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 6” (with a quote of Coleman Hawkins’ jazz line “Rifftide” as well) and a studio recording of the original “One of Those People”. (by wikipedia)

Booklet01AFive Bridges is a delectable representation of early-’70s progressive rock. Its makeup contains all of the elements needed to complete a solid prog album: a heavy intermingling of synthesizer and electric guitar, strong punctuation of both bass and drums, a central concept, and the fusing of rock and classical music, which in this case employs the Sinfonia of London. The eight tracks, centered around Newcastle’s urban structure and life in a blue collar society, are as colorful as they are intricate. “Intermezzo” from Sibelius’ Karelia Suite, and Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” are marvelous examples of classical and rock commingling, with the spotlight focused on Keith Emerson’s keyboard virtuosity. The second movement from Fantasia is a sparkling model of improvisational use containing various rock & roll rhythms and time structures, while the third track entitled “High Level Fugue 4th Bridge,” was inspired by Guida’s “Prelude and Fugue” and incorporates assorted jazz techniques and boogie-woogie styles into a classical recipe. “Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto, No. 6” unites Dylan with Bach for a most extraordinary illustration of instrumental creativity. Each example of genre merging is pristine and fluid, making the actual overlapping of multiple styles completely transparent. Five Bridges may rank just a tad below The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack or Ars Longa Vita Brevis on the patience scale, but it does demonstrate how Emerson’s work with ELP came into fruition. (by Mike DeGagne)


Brian Davison (drums, percussion)
Keith Emerson (organ)
Lee Jackson (vocals, bass)
The Sinfonia Of London Orchestra conducted by Joseph Eger
Joe Harriott (saxophone)
Peter King (saxophone)
Chris Pyne (trombone)
Alan Skidmore (saxophone)
John Warren (horn)
Kenny Wheeler (trumpet, flugelhorn)

01. The Five Bridges Suite (Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson) – 18:06
01.1.Fantasia 1st Bridge
01.2.2nd Bridge
01.3.Chorale 3rd Bridge
01.4.High Level Fugue 4th Bridge
01.5. Finale 5th Bridge
02. Intermezzo ‘Karelia Suite’ (Sibelius) 9.01
03. Pathetique (Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement) (Tchaikovsky) 9.23
04. Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 (Dylan/Bach) 5.40
05. One Of Those People (Emerson/Jackson) 3.08
06. Fairfield Hall finale:
06.1. Lieutenant Kijé (Prokofiev)
06.2. Rondo (Bach)
06.3. She Belongs To Me (Dylan)
07. Country Pie (studio overdubbed version) (Dylan) 5.41
08. Excerpts from the Five Bridges Suite (live BBC Radio 1) (Emerson/Jackson) 7.51