Saturday, March 08, 2014

Jazz Orchestra Notes

Notes by Dan Aldag, director of the HSU Jazz Orchestra:

rehearsing "Harlem"
The Jazz Orchestra is playing a program specifically tailored to sharing a concert with the Symphony. Most obviously, we are collaborating with the Symphony on Duke Ellington's Harlem... It has become a frequently performed work by symphony orchestras around the world and is generally acknowledged as one of Ellington's finest extended works.

 The Jazz Orchestra's own set will begin with "I Am" by the young Boston-based composer Omar Thomas. I chose this work because Thomas wrote it in a through-composed style much more like typical symphonic writing than jazz's customary repeating forms.

When Ken Ayoob told me that the Symphony was going to encroach on the Jazz Orchestra's territory and play a "Salute to the Big Bands", I decided to return the favor by programming a piece of classical music arranged for big band. The great jazz arranger Gil Evans adapted Leo Delibes' song "The Maids of Cadiz" for Claude Thornhill's band in 1950 (the same year Ellington composed Harlem), but Thornhill never recorded it. Evans wrote a new arrangement of "Maids" for his first album with Miles Davis, Miles Ahead, and the original arrangement for Thornhill was only recently rediscovered by Ryan Truesdell and recorded by his Gil Evans Project for their Grammy-nominated 2012 CD Centennial.

The Jazz Orchestra will close the program with a piece decidedly different from the refined sounds that will precede it. Charles Mingus's "Better Git It In Your Soul" was inspired by his childhood attendance at "Holy Roller" church services, with congregants shouting and moaning and speaking in tongues. Ending the evening with this will bring the Jazz Orchestra back to jazz's roots in African-American vernacular music.

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