Saturday, May 09, 2009

Director's Notes by Dan Aldag

We're continuing our celebration of the 50th anniversary of 1959, one of the most significant years in jazz's history. 1959 was the year of:

Kind Of Blue--Miles Davis: The album that established modal jazz (very few chord changes) as a viable alternative to the bebop approach of very complex and fast-moving chords. Maybe the best-selling jazz album of all time. enowned for its combination of surface beauty and extraordinary depth.

Giant Steps--John Coltrane: The album that was the apotheosis of the aforementioned bebop approach. The title tune remains today a kind of test piece for jazz improvisors.

The Shape of Jazz To Come--Ornette Coleman: The album that established free jazz (no pre-set, fixed chord progressions.) The beginning of jazz's avant-garde revolution of the 1960s

Time Out--Dave Brubeck: The album that first popularized unusual time signatures in jazz. Up to this point, almost all jazz had been in a meter of 4. This album included tunes in meters of 3, 5 ("Take Five"), 6 and 9 ("Blue Rondo a la Turk").

Portrait In Jazz--Bill Evans: The first album from the Bill Evans Trio, the group most responsible for freeing bass and drums from their timekeeping, accompanimental roles. In the Evans Trio, the piano, bass and drums operated as nearly equal musical partners, with often no one explicitly stating the pulse.

Mingus Ah Um--Charles Mingus: The album where Mingus first put together in a coherent and unified way his many and disparate influences, including blues and gospel, Ellington and the complex counterpoint of cool jazz. This album also introduced several of Mingus's best-known and most-performed compositions, including "Better Git It In Your Soul," "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" and "Fables of Faubus."

On this concert, we'll be playing "All Blues" from Kind Of Blue, "Open Letter to Duke" from Mingus Ah Um and "Peri's Scope" from Evans' Portrait In Jazz. Those three were all recorded by small groups and the arrangements we're playing reflect three different approaches to jazz repertory. The "All Blues" arrangement is by the famed bass player Chuck Israels and he has scored for the full band the solos improvised by Miles and pianist Bill Evans on the original recording. I arranged "Open Letter to Duke" by simply expanding the scoring of Mingus's original recording. Mike Tomaro's arrangement of "Peri's Scope" uses only the original melody and harmony as the basis for a unique interpretation of the tune.

Some of the rest of the music we'll be playing shows the influence of the innovative recordings of 1959. "Chased By A Wolf Down a Mountain" by our drummer, Jonathan Kipp, uses unusual time signatures, primarily seven. While it wasn't released until the next year, Miles Davis and Gil Evans began recording Sketches of Spain in 1959 and that album's strong classical influence is apparent in two pieces we'll be playing, "Sky Blue" by Maria Schneider (which features Sky Miller on soprano sax) and "Drift" by Darcy James Argue.

We'll also play music that has no direct connection to 1959, including Duke Ellington's "Rockin' In Rhythm", written in the early 1930s, but this particular arrangement is one the Ellington band began playing in the '50s.

The title of "Déjà Vu" by Tom Fredrickson refers both to Fredrickson's conscious evocation of the big band era and how musical material from early in the composition continues to reoccur throughout the piece. "Blues Walk" is a Clifford Brown composition reconceived with an Afro-Cuban feel by Michael Philip Mossman. John Coltrane's "Lazy Bird" will be played in an arrangement done for the Woody Herman band by Bill Stapleton. Duke Ellington's "All Too Soon" will feature trombonist Talon Nansel and tenor saxophonist Leo Echazábal.

No comments: