Saturday, May 09, 2009

Jazz Orchestra Celebrates Epoch-Making Music of 1959

The HSU Jazz Orchestra celebrates the golden anniversary of a golden year in jazz, with both the epoch-making music of 1959 and compositions that carry on its spirit, in its final spring concert on Saturday May 9.

The Orchestra plays tunes from three formative albums released in 1959 that made this what Orchestra director and HSU Music Department professor Dan Aldag calls “one of the most significant years in jazz history.”

“All Blues” is from the Miles Davis release, Kind of Blue, one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. “Peri’s Scope” is from the first album by the ground-breaking Bill Evans Trio, Portrait In Jazz. Pianist Evans also played on the Miles Davis album, and his improvised solo remains part of the score for “All Blues.”

The Orchestra also performs “Open Letter to Duke” from the 1959 release Mingus Ah Um by Charles Mingus. Speaking of Duke, two Ellington compositions are also on the program: “All Too Soon” (which features trombonist Talon Nansel and tenor saxophonist Leo Echazábal) and "Rockin' In Rhythm."

Another of 1959’s influential albums was Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which shattered the jazz shackles to the 4/4 beat. HSU Jazz Orchestra drummer Jonathan Kipp pays homage to that innovation with his composition, “Chased By a Wolf Down a Mountain,” which uses unusual time signatures.

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 on the program: "Sky Blue" by Maria Schneider (which features Sky Miller on soprano sax) and "Drift" by Darcy James Argue.

The Orchestra plays some unrelated tunes, too: “Déjà vu” (an evocation of the Big Band era), the Woody Herman Band arrangement of John Coltrane’s “Lazy Bird,” and “Blues Walk,” a Clifford Brown composition reconceived with an Afro-Cuban feel by Michael Philip Mossman.

The HSU Jazz Orchestra final spring concert is Saturday, May 9 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID.
Media: Humboldt State Now.

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