Symphonic Band & Jazz Orchestra Joint Concert
The HSU Symphonic Band previews a suite by a contemporary Chinese composer who will soon visit Humboldt, and the Jazz Orchestra showcases the work of jazz legend Gil Evans in a joint concert on Saturday, February 25 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.
Chinese composer Chen Yi will headline the HSU New Horizons Festival in April, when several ensembles will combine to perform her Suite From China West. For this concert the Symphonic Band will play its first and second movements. “It’s very challenging, very nuanced writing,” said conductor Paul Cummings. “It’s a fascinating work to play and to hear.”
The suite is inspired by folk music from China West, and incorporates sounds from nature in inventive ways, Cummings said. “It has a very wide palette of sounds, with unusual ranges for the instruments. There is one piece on every Band program that really presents a challenge, and this is it.” A larger ensemble will play the entire suite in April, but for this performance the Symphonic Band will tackle “Introduction” and “Meng Songs.”
The concert begins with “Down a Country Lane” by Aaron Copland. “It starts serenely and builds to a climax, a slow, expressive, very beautiful four minutes,” Cummings said, “and very recognizable as Copland.”
There’s an immediate contrast in “Festivo” by prolific Czech-American composer Vaclav Nelhybel. “This is very rhythmic and assertive, propelling relentlessly forward. Trumpets are featured, and lots of percussion—very raucous, in keeping with the festival theme. It’s a lot of fun to play.”
Percussion is also prominent in “Foundry” by contemporary American composer John Mackey. “This piece is less than a year old,” Cummings said. “He wrote it last April. Mackey is a rising star in American music. He incorporates elements of hip hop and rock music as well as improvised sounds into symphonic music. There’s a melodic voice throughout this but like ‘Festivo’ it’s a hard-driving percussion piece.”
For its half of the evening, the HSU Jazz Orchestra begins its spring tribute to jazz great Gil Evans in his centennial year. Evans’ career extended from the 1930s to the 1980s. For this concert, the Jazz Orchestra will play three of Evans’ classic arrangements and one of his original compositions.
“Anthropology” is a bebop tune written by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. “Evans was one of the first, if not the first, to incorporate the new rhythmic and harmonic language of bebop into a big band,” said Jazz Orchestra director Dan Aldag. Evans arranged it for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra in the 1940s, as he did another tune on this evening’s bill, “Sorta Kinda.”
"Boplicity" is a Miles Davis tune that Evans arranged for the Miles Davis Nonet, and ultimately was heard on the classic Miles Davis album The Birth of the Cool. “One unusual feature of both the Claude Thornhill band and the Miles Davis Nonet was their use of French horn and tuba, instruments not usually heard in jazz,” Aldag observed. Also on the program is "La Nevada," a Gil Evans original from his album Out Of The Cool.
Also included is a piece composed by HSU senior music composition major Mike Cimino. “I had originally planned to play nothing but Evans’ music this semester,” said Aldag, “but we liked Mike’s new composition so much that we decided to play it for this concert.”
The Symphonic Band and Jazz Orchestra perform on Saturday February 25 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Produced by the HSU Music Department.
Media: Humboldt Now, Tri-City Weekly, Arcata Eye.