Amazon.com Widgets
2 Recommend It!

Westchester Jazz Orchestra: Dobbs Ferry, NY, September 29, 2012

By Published: | 3,225 views
Westchester Jazz Orchestra
Master's School
Dobbs Ferry, NY
September 29, 2012

The much-acclaimed Westchester Jazz Orchestra (WJO) opened its 10th season with a program called West Side Stories, based on that brilliant and timeless 1957 Broadway musical by Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
1918 - 1990
composer/conductor
and Stephen Sondheim. In keeping with the WJO's ongoing educational objectives, the concert began with a conversation among four of the evening's arrangers: WJO's artistic director and conductor, pianist Mike Holober
Mike Holober
Mike Holober
b.1957
piano
, trombonist Pete McGuiness, trumpeter Tony Kadleck, and pianist Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent
b.1947
piano
. In a frank and fascinating discussion, they revealed how each faced the challenge of reimagining Bernstein's classic score.

McGuiness, whose assignment was "Maria," had toured Europe for eight months with a production of West Side Story. "I like to go back to the very first record, to get the original intent of the composer," he said, adding that, "I wanted warm brass on the first three notes—everything goes from that." His "Maria" incorporates another classic as well: the familiar sultry rhythms of pianist Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano
's "Poinciana."

Kadlek, who also spent time in the musical's orchestra pit, explained that since "One Hand, One Heart" was basically underscoring for the dialogue; his task was to translate those tender moments for the brassy voice of a big band. He described using such tools as Sibelius software to determine whether a section would sound better with trumpets or trombones. Even with computer assistance, the creative process can be problematic: "I started out gangbusters," he confessed, "then got writer's block." But Kadlek clearly broke through, since he crafted the highlight of the evening: an exciting chart with a catchy groove that also featured superb playing by John Bailey on flugelhorn.

Mike Holober explained how his approach depends on "whatever's flowing." He might start with the form, or the rhythm: "I take it, and then go from there." For his arrangement of "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love," he said, "I was thinking John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
quartet, that kind of playing hard—not hard playing!" For his part Alan Broadbent, who's won Grammy awards for arranging for Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole
b.1950
vocalist
and Shirley Horn
Shirley Horn
Shirley Horn
1934 - 2005
piano
, talked about the need "to think beyond the keyboard" and the difficulty of "getting away from that big 'Tonight'!" (This bold tune was his assignment.) But once he has an idea, he said, "I write very quickly—it's a Zen kind of thing—from beginning to end."

The program also included medleys from the legendary bands of Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
and Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
. As might be expected, the Rich version was anchored by fine WJO drummer Andy Watson, and focused on toying with the rhythm, particularly in the "Prologue." The Kenton medley was full of its own signature: those startling eruptions from different layers of brass and reeds. Hearing their delightful "Gee, Officer Krupke" was a reminder that Stephen Sondheim wrote every word in West Side Story except for two: that final "Krup You!," which was Bernstein's contribution to this much-beloved and comical tune.

All told, it was a fine evening of music as well as invaluable insights. With its deep roster of stellar players, the WJO is unique in bringing the incomparable big band sound north of New York City to Westchester County. Its first successful decade produced 150 charts and two widely-praised CDs, and with this season's debut, Westchester Jazz Orchestra is well on its way to a second.

Featured recording “Maiden Voyage Suite”

Maiden Voyage Suite

(2011)
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Tom Chang

Tom Chang

About | Enter

Cedar Walton

Cedar Walton

About | Enter

Sheryl Bailey

Sheryl Bailey

About | Enter

Roscoe Mitchell

Roscoe Mitchell

About | Enter

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW