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Jazz Education: The Next Generation, Part 2

Karl Ackermann By

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The Humber program is quite competitive but the program provides an alternative for students who need more preparation. Some students who are not ready for the degree program can qualify for Humber's Foundations course, giving them a year to hone their skills and re-apply. Up to eighty-percent of those students are accepted into the degree program the following year. Once students have been auditioned and sorted into one or more of the fifty-two Humber ensembles they have the unique opportunity to play Monday night sessions at Toronto's Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar. The ensembles are also shuttled out to perform at local schools as part of the "Jazz in the Schools" program that has given eighty-thousand students the opportunity to hear live jazz.

Christianson has focused expectations of how the Humber program can help in shaping the future of jazz. "I feel what we are doing is hugely important, because no one can make it very easily as a player by themselves. The old circuits of jazz venues are gone now, so the new generation have to be business-wise. We are one of the few schools who not only offer a solid foundation as a jazz performer, but also give them a business foundation, and a recording/producing foundation...they will need all of that, plus self-discipline and self-promotion. Mainly through the music business courses I have pointed to, and by consistently mentoring them on their own self-worth...we are seeing a return to demanding the respect of being properly paid.

Thanks to Doug Munro, Pete Malinverni, Denny Christianson, Waleed Abdulhamid and David White for their time, their participation in the interviews and/or pointing me in the right direction.

SUNY Purchase Artists

David White Jazz Orchestra: Flashpoint

With a faculty that includes John Abercrombie, Eric Alexander, Scott Colley, Jon Faddis, Jon Gordon and Kenny Washington -Vocals, the Purchase College Jazz Studies Program is a leading talent pool for artists. No one alumnus epitomizes that capacity better than trombonist, composer and arranger David White on his debut, Flashpoint. Though he's still relatively unknown outside the New York circuit, White has played with the likes of Slide Hampton, Delfeayo Marsalis and Kenny Burrell. White's Jazz Orchestra deftly combines the traditions of big band music with open improvisation and inventive arrangements, with eight of his seventeen-piece orchestra's members taking memorable solos throughout the collection.

Duke Ellington's up-tempo "David Danced Before the Lord with All His Might" opens the set with a retrospective treatment in its more homogenous big band style. The tribute may be a bit of misdirection, as White's own compositions and arrangements follow a distinctly modern approach. However, the two musicians share an understanding of composition and writing for large ensembles. The slow tempo "Eyes Closed" highlights White's ability to reference but not duplicate traditional intonations. The piece includes brilliant solos from pianist Nick Consol and saxophonist Sam Dillon, while the orchestra provides a restrained backdrop. The overall effect is that of realizing satisfying sense of completion. Similarly, "First Light" is solidly built around solos from tenor saxophonist Sam Taylor and White, before the orchestra builds out to a moderate but dramatic tempo.

The potential of the full orchestra is on display in equal measure to the solo sections. The rhythmic drive is appropriately bluesy on "Love in a Blue Time," which features solos from White, Consol and alto saxophonist Andrew Gould. "Secrets" holds some personal significance to White, and the orchestra plays with a sensitivity that reflects the composer's inspiration. "I Have a Bad Feeling About This," with Volker Goetze's flugelhorn solo, "I'll See You in Court," and "Mister Shepherd's Blues"—where trombonist Melissa Gardiner, trumpeter Miki Hirose and Dillon share quality solo time—are more in line with full out swing.

With the exception of the Ellington opener, White composed and arranged all the material on Flashpoint, taking full advantage of instrumental shading by varying the content and using great imagination in executing his vision. White clearly knows his jazz history and strikes a perfect balance, by incorporating his musical influences while defining his own progressive style. The musicians are polished and first rate, playing with nuance or great passion where appropriate. Flashpoint would be an outstanding recording in any composer's portfolio, but is all the more impressive as a first outing, with White leaving much to look forward to. Track Listing: David Danced Before the Lord With All His Might; Eyes Closed; Love in a Blue Time; First Light; Secrets;I Have a Bad Feeling About This; Pandora; I'll See You in Court; First Lullaby; Mister Shepherd's Blues. Personnel: David White: composer, arranger, conductor, trombone; Andrew Gould: alto saxophone; Omar Daniels: alto saxophone; Sam Taylor: tenor saxophone; Sam Dillon: tenor saxophone; Stephen Plekan: baritone saxophone; Miki Hirose: trumpet; Volker Goetze: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alicia Rau: trumpet; Michael Irwin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Melissa Gardiner: trombone; Rick Parker: trombone; Barry Cooper: trombone; Robert Statel: bass trombone; Nick Consol: piano; Doug Drewes: bass; Paul Francis: drums.

David White Jazz Orchestra: The Chase

Some of the same high school kids that were jamming with composer/arranger/trombonist David White more than fifteen years ago still occupy a space alongside newer faces in his New York-based jazz orchestra. Tradition and transition are very much at the core of White's approach to progressive swing. White continues to express his unique style of progressive swing on his sophomore release The Chase. Like his debut Flashpoint (Self-Produced, 2007), The Chase pushes instrumental boundaries while paying just enough respect to convention.

White's democratic process allows his band mates plenty of spotlight time. The traditional swing opening of "Mister Shepherd's Misadventures" is quickly possessed by blistering solos from saxophonist Sam Dillon and trumpeter Miki Hirose. "And The People Could Fly" incorporates a bluesy element and standout work from pianist Nick Consol and trumpeter Pablo Masis. "The Sweetest Bite of Cherry" slows the pace down initially while saxophonist Sam Taylor and drummer Ryan Cavanaugh create a palpable tension, agitating for greater acceleration.

White himself takes a rare turn at soloing on the cinematic "Persistence," serving a reminder that his skills include being a fine player. White is one among five trombonists in the ensemble and another, David Reitz, gets to show his chops on "The Shakedown." Alto player Andrew Gould offers prominent performances on both of the aforementioned pieces. Yet another trombonist, Rick Parker, and alto saxophonist Omar Daniels get their chance to shine on the mid-tempo closer "Blues for Sally Draper."

While White deliberately places the solos in these tightly arranged pieces, they unfold spontaneously and have an organic improvisational feel. This seamless integration of swing and improvisation give White's original compositions a captivating quality. The rejuvenated condition and status of big band music has been intimately tied to a handful of modern-day composers among which White is prominent. He is a musical activist encouraging risk without tormenting the music to accomplish the task. White continues to grow as a ground-breaking composer and a forceful orchestrator. Track Listing: Mister Shepherd's Misadventures; And the People Can Fly; The Sweetest Bite of Cherry; Persistence; The Shakedown; Blues for Sally Draper. Personnel: David White: music director, composer, trombone; Andrew Gould: alto saxophone; Omar Daniels: alto saxophone; Sam Taylor: tenor saxophone; Sam Dillon: tenor saxophone; Tim Stocker: baritone saxophone; Miki Hirose: trumpet; Colin Brigstocke: trumpet; Alicia Rau: trumpet; Pablo Masis: trumpet; Rick Parker: trombone; Dan Reitz: trombone; Aliana Alster: trombone; Rob Stattel: bass trombone; Nick Consol: piano; Phil Rowan: bass; Ryan Cavan: drums.

Humber Artists

Humber Studio Jazz Ensemble: Another Parallel Reality

The pundits who regularly question the vital signs of jazz would be well served to turn their ears toward the Humber Studio Jazz Ensemble. Almost two-dozen albums into a constantly evolving presence, Denny Christianson, the Director of Toronto's Humber Music Program, has been mentoring young musicians through their persistent reinventing of sound and process. The combined passion for the music and an expert knowledge of the form have created an experience that is keeping modern big band music alive, healthy and growing. The twenty-one piece ensemble features some of Humber's School of Creative and Performing Arts most distinctive young jazz players on Another Parallel Reality.

Each year the Humber Music Program recruits a marquee jazz artist for a brief residency during which the artist, faculty and students work on the selection of pieces, writing of charts, and rehearsals, all culminating in a live concert. In the case of Another Parallel Reality the title is a very slight spin on a collection from this event's resident, drummer Jack DeJohnette. He joins the ranks of pianist Danilo Perez, bassist Dave Holland, saxophonists Michael Brecker and Chris Potter and trumpeter Dave Douglas who, among others, have participated in the Humber program.

Of the ten pieces on Another Parallel Reality, DeJohnette penned six and co-wrote another with guitar icon Pat Metheny. The arrangements are implemented by various members of the Humber faculty. "Jack In" is the imposing opener which features fine solos from pianist James Hill, Christian Brown on tenor sax, and trombonist Brad Gilchtist. The more avant-garde "New Muse" has a snake-like quality to its movement with added tension in the quietly menacing sounds of Chris Rennie's tenor sax and Josh Hung's trumpet. "Indigo Dreamscapes" appropriately floats on the ethereal wordless vocals of Lydia Persaud and Chynna Lewis before it eventually drifts into a slightly off-kilter conclusion. These same two vocalists shine on the Duke Ellington classic "Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me." Persaud and Lewis' stellar performance of the difficult scat technique is so satisfying that it would have made Ella Fitzgerald take notice. Latin rhythms take over on "Nine Over Reggae," the DeJohnette/Metheny composition from Parallel Realities (MCA Records, 2004). Guitarist Sam Dickenson supplies a fine solo that is a bit more rock oriented than the Metheny original.

The atmospheric rhythms on Another Parallel Reality, may be set in the big band era but the ensemble plays to the present, opening up harmonies and improvisations. Where more conventional scoring is utilized, it presents a perfect showcase for the eye-opening performances of Persaud and Lewis. On Another Parallel Reality Christianson is careful in not possessing the sense of space common to so much contemporary big band music. The Humber arrangements place just the right amount of examination on each of the pieces so that style and technique are not being over analyzed to the detriment of the performances. Another Parallel Reality is an impressive album and Christianson has fused the many individual talents of the Humber Studio Jazz Ensemble into a tight and precise unit who happen to be a lot of fun to listen to. Track Listing: Jack In; New Muse; Indigo Dreamscapes; Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me; Nine Over Reggae; Exotic Isles; You Can Have It; Ebony; Salsa For Eddie G; We'll Be Together Again. Personnel: Andrew Racknor: saxophone, flute; Liam Masil-Mitro: saxophone, flute; Christian Brown: saxophone, flute, clarinet; Chris Rennie: saxophone, clarinet; Zach Mills: saxophone, clarinet; Rob Laird: trumpet; Shawn Robson: trumpet; Ania Zarzycki: trumpet; Sean White: trumpet; Josh Hung: trumpet; PJ Andersson: trombone; Devin Chubb: trombone; Brad Gilchrist: trombone; Nicholas Sieber: trombone; James Hill: piano; Sam Dickinson: guitar; Julian Anderson-Bowes: bass; Matthew Chalmers: drums, vibes; Juan Carlos Medrano Magallanes: percussion; Lydia Persaud: vocals; Chynna Lewis: vocals.

David Virelles: Antenna

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