Saturday, May 29, 2010

Amherst College Jazz Ensemble Commission

Earlier this month I spent a very enjoyable weekend at Amherst College in Massachusetts working with the Amherst College Jazz Ensemble.  As a part of the Robin McBride '59 Commission Series, I was asked to write a piece for the ensemble.  They gave me complete freedom to write whatever I wanted.  I wrote a rather dark, lengthy piece entitled "Smoke and Mirrors".

The director, Bruce Diehl did a terrific job preparing the ensemble.  I conducted during the dress rehearsal and had a chance do some "fine tuning" with regards to interpretive aspects of the piece.  The band responded very well.  This part of the process is always the most fun for me. 

The following afternoon, I gave a lecture to the music theory class, discussing my compositional process.  I talked about idea generation techniques (making lists), 12-tone theory, and shared details of the personal, real life scenario which prompted the piece.  They asked some terrific questions.

The song featured Alison Rogers on flugelhorn.  At the rehearsal she told me that it was at a February 1999 Maynard Ferguson concert in Coral Gables, FL that she decided music would be one of her lifelong passions.  I was the pianist in the band that night.  What a small world!  Here is a shot of Alison performing my "Smoke and Mirrors" composition on May 3rd, in Amherst College's Buckley Recital Hall.

And here I am, after the concert, posing with Robin McBride, for whom the commission is named, and Bruce Diehl, the director of the Amherst College Jazz Ensemble.  We are standing next to the plaque which displays the names of all of the recipient composers of the commissioning series.  Dave Rivello, the composer who's work I plan to feature with the UConn Jazz Ensemble next spring, was listed above me. The jazz world just gets smaller every day.

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