Saturday, October 10, 2015

Concert Notes: Jazz Orchestra

Notes by Jazz Orchestra Director Dan Aldag

 The 12-bar blues chord progression is the most commonly used chord progresssion in American music. It's used again and again in blues, R&B, rock and roll, country and jazz. Musicians, particularly jazz musicians, have come up with many different variations on the basic framework. We'll play five different takes on the blues.

Two come from band members - Ryan Woempner's original composition "Colie's Blues", which recalls the feeling of the funky, soul-jazz tunes of the late '50s and early '60s, and Kyle McInnis's arrangement of the Miles Davis standard "All Blues." Miles' original is in a meter of six, and Kyle's arrangement preserves that while exploring the 3 against 2 polyrhythm so important in music of the African diaspora.

Oliver Nelson's "Hoedown" was first recorded on his classic album The Blues and the Abstract Truth, which explored blues as a form and a sensibility through a variety of different musical approaches. The version we're playing was later arranged for big band by Nelson for his album Full Nelson.

"Canto Lucumi" explores the same 3:2 polyrhythm as it is used in Afro-Cuban music. Michael Phillip Mossman wrote "Canto Lucumi" for Latin Jazz pioneer Mario Bauzá's band and named it for the Lucumi people, the originators of the Santería religion. While the 12-bar blues is not normally associated with Afro-Cuban music, Mossman successfully integrated it into this piece.

The most conventional blues tune on the concert is Phil Wilson's "Basically Blues", written for Buddy Rich's band in the 1960s.

2015 is the centennial of Billy Strayhorn's birth, and the Jazz Orchestra will be playing all Strayhorn music on our December concert. As a teaser for that, we're playing two of those pieces on this concert, "Take The 'A' Train" and "Isfahan."

Strayhorn spent virtually his entire career working for Duke Ellington, and "Take The 'A' Train" was the Ellington band's theme song. "Isfahan" comes from Ellington and Strayhorn's Far East Suite, which, despite its name, is mostly a musical depiction of places the Ellington band visited on the 1963 State Department-sponsored tour of the Middle East and India. Isfahan is a very old and beautiful city in Iran.

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