Tag Archives: big band jazz

ANDY FARBER: MAKING BEAUTIFUL SOUNDS

Having a large jazz orchestra in this century has often posed challenges besides the economic ones. 

Many “big bands” get formed only for special occasions and are thus not well-rehearsed.  Then there’s the matter of repertoire: should a band made up of improvising jazz players go into the past or boldly plunge into the future, however one defines it?  Or should such an orchestra bridge Past and Present — not an easy thing: it means more than letting the saxophone soloist play GIANT STEPS licks in the middle of A STRING OF PEARLS. 

Saxophonist Andy Farber has found his own answer to these questions.  He’s worked with all kinds and sizes of ensembles comfortably.  But his own orchestra has found its own path that pays homage to the past without being anyone’s ghost band — in a way that’s both reassuring and innovative.

Here’s what Andy told Alvester Garnett, who not only plays wonderful big band drums but also wrote fine liner notes (!): “The goal of this record is to focus on the emotional and spiritual element of large group ensemble playing.  I feel like there is a great amount of nuance in this band, ao conscious effort in playing pretty, shaping lines, playing parts as if it were a solo.”  Does that give you a sense of the silken textures Andy and his Orchestra have created?

You don’t have to take it on faith.  The band sounds wonderful — and its overall sound is not heavy or ponderous, nor does it make you wonder what all the players in the band are doing (some “big bands” quickly break down into soloist-plus-rhythm that you wonder if the other players have gotten off the bandstand to check their email — not here). 

And the names of the players will tell you a great deal.  Andy himself is a fine solo player (as I hope you’ve seen in my videos of him sitting in at The Ear Inn): here he’s joined by Dan Block, Chuck Wilson, Jay Brandford, Marc Phaneuf, Kurt Bacher, saxes (with a special guest appearance by Jerry Dodgion); Brian Pareschi, Irv Grossman, Kenny Rampton, and Alex Norris are the trumpets; Art Baron, Harvey Tibbs, Wayne Goodman, Max Seigel the trombones; Bob Grillo plays guitar; Mark Sherman, vibraphone; Kenny Ascher, piano; Jennifer Vincent, bass; Alvester Garnett, drums.  And there is some hip vocalizing from the Prince of Hip, Jon Hendricks and his Singers.

The repertoire includes the happily familiar (BODY AND SOUL, MIDNIGHT, THE STARS AND YOU, THE MAN I LOVE, SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES, JACK THE BELLBOY) and Andy’s witty, swinging originals (SPACE SUIT, BOMBERS, IT IS WHAT IT IS, and SHORT YARN) — and more.  All sinuously played, with a delight in sound rather than volume, texture rather than speed. 

If someone were to ask me the honorably weary question, “Are the big bands ever coming back?” I would play them this CD.  This band has no need to return: it is most reassuringly here. 

The CD is on BWR (Black Warrior Records) and can be found at better record stores everywhere?  Well, not quite — but it is available online through a number of sites and (of course) from Andy when you see him playing, which I urge you to do.

BIG BAND JAZZ — FREE! — IN NEW YORK CITY

(To my readers in the tristate area: there’s no JVC Jazz Festival this year, and free jazz events of this caliber don’t happen often, if at all . . . so consider this one!)

BIG BAND JAZZ CELEBRATED

AT ACCLAIMED BMI JAZZ COMPOSER WORKSHOP’S

21st ANNUAL SHOWCASE CONCERT

Darcy J. Argue, Dan Morgenstern, and Dennis Mackrel to Judge Tenth Annual Charlie Parker

Jazz Composition Prize

NEW YORK, June 2, 2009 — The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, a noted creative forum for musical exploration and development, will highlight the best new jazz compositions created during the last year at its 21st Annual Summer Showcase Concert.  The concert is free to the public, and will be held on Friday, June 26 at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church (120 West 69th Street) at 7:30 p.m. The concert will feature the BMI/New York Jazz Orchestra, a 17-piece modern repertory ensemble made up of leading New York musicians.  Seating is first-come, first-served; doors open at 7:00 p.m.   The evening will also feature a competition to choose the winner of the BMI Foundation’s tenth annual Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize, which will be given to the writer of the best new work composed in the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop.  This year’s judges include noted jazz authority Dan Morgenstern; Secret Society bandleader and composer Darcy J. Argue; and noted jazz drummer and composer Dennis Mackrel.

The winning composer will receive a cash award and a $3,000 commission to compose a new piece for the following year’s concert.  Named in memory of the Workshop’s co-founder and longtime musical director, last year’s “Manny Albam Commission” winner, Jeff Fairbanks, will premiere his commissioned work.  The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop is led by internationally renowned composers Jim McNeely and offers a unique collaborative environment for professional jazz musicians with an emphasis on composition for the large jazz (big band) ensemble.  The Workshop – a well-known forum for creative excellence – provides an environment where composers are free to explore new avenues in the creative process, while at the same time honing their skills.  McNeely has performed with and written for Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, among others; is a six-time Grammy Award nominee; and The New York Times has called his writing “exhilarating.”

About BMI

BMI’s impressive roster of jazz artists includes such legends as Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton and Charles Mingus, as well as today’s new jazz stars like Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, Kevin Eubanks, Joshua Redman, Mark Whitfield and Bobby Watson. Broadcast Music, Inc.® (BMI) is an American performing right organization that represents more than 375,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in all genres of music and more than 6.5 million works.

About the BMI Foundation, Inc.

The BMI Foundation, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1985 to support the creation, performance, and study of music through awards, scholarships, commissions and grants. Tax-deductible donations to the Foundation come primarily from songwriters, composers and publishers, BMI employees and members of the public with a special interest in music. Because both the Foundation staff and the distinguished members of the Advisory Panel serve without compensation, over 95% of all donations and income are used for charitable grants.