Saturday, March 08, 2014

All This Jazz: HSU Battle of the Orchestras

 The Humboldt Symphony plays jazz, the HSU Jazz Orchestra plays classical, and together they play an orchestral work by Duke Ellington: is it blurring musical boundaries or HSU’s orchestra slam? You be the judge at Fulkerson Recital Hall on Saturday March 8. 

 The HSU Symphony under the direction of Kenneth Ayoob performs Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to West Side Story, which melds classical, jazz and popular music elements. A major hit as a stage show, this concert version was adapted from the landmark 1961 film by Maurice Peress, New York Philharmonic assistant conductor to Bernstein.

 “Our part of the concert features pieces with a jazz feel and background,” Ayoob noted. The Symphony gets more specifically jazzy with Calvin Custer’s Salute to the Big Bands, which incorporates melodies made famous by Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and other 1940s bands, including excerpts from “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and “Sing Sing Sing.”

 “When Ken Ayoob told me that the Symphony was going to encroach on the Jazz Orchestra's territory with this piece,” said Jazz Orchestra conductor Dan Aldag, “I decided to return the favor by programming a piece of classical music arranged for big band.”

 So the Jazz Orchestra will perform a jazz band version of a song by 19th century French composer Leo Delibes, “The Maids of Cadiz.” Though the song was recorded by Benny Goodman and Miles Davis, this 1950 band arrangement by Gil Evans was only recently rediscovered.

The two orchestras combine for the evening’s centerpiece, Duke Ellington’s Harlem, conducted by Aldag. “This is generally acknowledged as one of Ellington's finest extended works,” he said. 

 The Jazz Orchestra gets back to jazz roots with the raucous “Better Git It In Your Soul” by Charles Mingus. 

 The Humboldt Symphony and HSU Jazz Orchestra concert is on Saturday March 8 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $8/$5, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. An HSU Music Department production.

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