I am a dinosaur, and I wear my ancient tastes proudly. (The roots and berries are succulent this time of year, as well.) So if you were to ask me about contemporary big jazz orchestras, I might look embarrassed, because for me the height of that art form was perhaps Basie at the Famous Door, 1938, and Ellington, 1940. Perhaps I overstate, but you get the idea. (I make several exceptions, but won’t list them here because anyone I omit might feel slighted.)
This morning, I received an email, a very gracious one, from saxophonist-composer Shan Baker, and I thought, “How very gently she handles words and ideas; it’s a shame I will have to turn her down, or is it away?”
Here’s the email, first:
I came across your great jazz blog several months ago. First of all, thank you for your great writing, posts and all that you do for jazz music!
I am a professional composer/musician that co-leads a very original 20-member NYC-based jazz orchestra called the Erica Seguine & Shan Baker Jazz Orchestra. We have been performing in NYC since 2011 and both write all of the music for it. Along with composing, Erica conducts the ensemble and I play saxophones in it.
Our ensemble was recently included in a NY Times article about the big band revival.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/arts/music/jazz-big-band-revival.html. In addition, Erica has won many awards as a composer, including the 2013 Charlie Parker/2014 Manny Albam Commission from BMI, ASCAP Foundation Herb Albert Young Jazz Composer Awards (including the 2014 Johnny Mandel Prize), and others. We are both past students of the great Jim McNeely.
It has been a long time coming, but we are finally getting ready to create our debut album and will be recording at Oktaven Studios in Mt. Vernon, NY. This album, of course, is necessary in order to take our ensemble and our careers as composers to the next level.
We have composer and bandleader Darcy James Argue on board as our producer. Grammy-winning recording engineer Brian Montgomery will also be joining us in the studio. He has worked with artists such as Esperanza Spalding, and the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra.
We have launched a GoFundMe to raise money to fund the album and are offering rewards to backers. We are offering everything from digital downloads, CDs, and music scores to executive producer credits and the opportunity to join us in the studio while we record. We estimate the costs on the low end will be around $25,000 dollars. While we have a lot of support from friends and fellow musicians, but we have been unable to reach enough people. So far we have only raised just under $3000.
I was wondering if you might be able to help us in any way.
If you happen to like our project, would you perhaps be able to spread the word?
Here is a link to our fundraiser, where you can watch a video and learn more about us: https://www.gofundme.com/f/erica-seguineshan-baker-jazz-orchestra-debut-cd
Here is Erica’s youtube channel – you can watch some live performances of our orchestra there:
Our facebook page:
Thank you so much for taking the time to read all of this!
Please let me know if you have any ideas or advice.
Thanks again for all you do for this music!
Gracefully done, don’t you think? I was prepared to say, “I’m sorry, but no.” But being devoted to fairness, I went to the YouTube video, which I reproduce below:
I started out skeptically, but that music is beautifully played and it has a strong emotional sweep to it. By the time I got to the closing vocal (I believe the singer is Sonia Szajnberg), I thought, “I want to hear more of this music. I can and should send this out to your world: even if people step back because no one is playing ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, this music deserves to be heard and supported.” Then, I went to Erica’s “compositional video,” and again thought, “This is candid genuine music.” Hear for yourself:
and this beauty (please be sure to read the eloquent description as well):
The idea of using JAZZ LIVES as a fundraising platform for artists makes me wary — in the past, if I’ve supported X, then Y and Z have been vaguely sullen because I didn’t / wouldn’t do the same in their case. But I encourage you to help this jazz orchestra make its CD. And if you can’t, at least spread the word. This seems a truly worthy enterprise, and I wouldn’t have written this post if I felt otherwise. Now, I must take a nap in the sun with my pack, so you’ll excuse me . . .
Be sure to wake me for the next ESSB Jazz Orchestra gig, though.
May your happiness increase!