2004 Festival of New Trumpet Music
“ Inclusiveness is FONT's central organizing principle and, in the service of that principle, the curators violate conventional notions of musical genre, gender and race, more or less continuously, happily and with style. ”
The goal of the festival is ambitious and quietly noble. Simply put, FONT's curators intend to present music free of preconceived notions about either the music itself or the people who play and write it. Inclusiveness is FONT's central organizing principle and, in the service of that principle, the curators violate conventional notions of musical genre, gender and race, more or less continuously, happily and with style. FONT celebrates not only new music for the trumpet, but the diversity of the creative people who are involved with it - as players, composers, and improvisers, alone and in ensembles of all shapes and sizes.
FONT is a shared vision of its curators and co-founders, trumpeters Campbell and Dave Douglas, as well as Jon Nelson. Douglas is well known as a trumpet player and bandleader unafraid to depart from tradition and to play and write across musical boundaries. Campbell is also well known, having been a consistent, creative contributor in a variety of settings; his grounding in the mainstream can be taken as a given (he studied with Lee Morgan), but like Dave Douglas, he is not confined by, or will have his instrument confined by, preconceived musical categories or limitations that - whatever their commercial function - do nothing to promote musical understanding or appreciation.
Jon Nelson's name may be less familiar. He is a Professor of Trumpet and Ensembles at SUNY/Buffalo and has commissioned, arranged, composed and premiered over 100 original works by modern composers. A serious minded proponent of new, through composed music, his participation as a co-curator was essential to realizing the vision of FONT as a festival of the entire spectrum of "21st century trumpet music". Douglas and Campbell approached Nelson specifically to provide FONT's "post classical" component.
The portion of the FONT program devoted to through composed music is predictably diverse, with each piece appearing on the program for a reason. Some pieces are selected to explore and allow audiences to experience how through composed music and improvised music influence one another, while some composed pieces (both for solo trumpet and ensembles) sound improvised when properly performed. Improvisers are capable of spontaneous musical inventions so structured that they sound fully composed, and many of these works will be performed in more intimate, club-like settings, bringing this new chamber music to the type of venues typically associated with jazz.
As a festival intended to provide a look at the entire spectrum of new music for the trumpet and to show off the wealth of talent and creativity in the trumpet community today, FONT's success depends on the participating performers. The roster of players who will appear as part of FONT is impressive. The trumpet luminaries include, in addition to the three co-curators, Dave Ballou, Baikida Carroll, Laurie Frink, Nabate Isles, Ingrid Jensen, Greg Kelley, John McNeil, Jesse Neuman, Jeremy Pelt, Wadada Leo Smith, and Nate Wooley. Saxophonists Oliver Lake and Marcus Strickland, vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, bassist Mark Dresser, and percussionist Susie Ibarra, among other renowned musicians, will also appear at festival events.
FONT begins on August 4th with a performance of "Trumpet Nation" by a trumpet choir conducted by Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris, the innovative, genre-crossing composer-conductor and a pioneer of conducted improvisation ("conduction"). The festival will close on the last day of the month with the appearance of trumpeter Bill Dixon, who was the prime organizer and producer of 1964's October Revolution in Jazz in New York City, as well as a force behind the Jazz Composers' Guild for the Performance of Contemporary American Black Music and a Professor of Music at Bennington College from '68-'96. This will be Mr. Dixon's first performance in New York since the '80s.
In 2003, FONT was disrupted by the mid-August blackout. In fact, Mr. Dixon's performance was originally scheduled for last year's festival, but it was cancelled when power to the venue could not be restored in time for him to appear. That makes 2004 something of a rebuilding year for FONT, and the effort shows every sign of success. An ambitious program of groundbreaking compositions and performers offered at accessible and attractive venues promises to put FONT back on track to becoming an established annual cultural event.
Anyone looking over FONT's schedule will note the absence of some well known names in the trumpet community, a fact that is hardly lost on the curators. A month-long festival was simply not long enough for the trumpet community to display the talents of everyone who might have might have been included. As the festival's organizers put it, this embarrassment of riches is "a testament to the vitality of the trumpet in this day and age, and is one of the main reasons we're presenting this festival." FONT 2004 is likely to be the most interesting and concentrated ear-opening opportunity of this summer's musical offerings, and it merits wide attention and support.