Saturday, April 25, 2015

Regrets? I've Had A Few...

I was 17-years old when Jeff Presslaff moved to my hometown of Winnipeg from New York City.  I was a headstrong and impetuous teen, so rather than warmly welcoming him, I viewed him merely as competition. I made the assumption that he was just another cocky American musician rolling through town and was determined not to be outshone by this new jazz pianist.  I used his arrival as motivation to practice harder and made a point of trying to outplay him at jam sessions.

Thankfully I have mellowed as I've grown older and I now value relationships a whole lot more.  If I could do it over again, I would have befriended Jeff, gotten to know him as a person, and tried to learn a thing or two along the way.  Jeff Presslaff is a highly skilled and devoted musician (both on piano and trombone!) and he writes brilliantly.  He's also a really nice guy.

When I returned to Winnipeg last March to play with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, there was Jeff, capably playing in the trombone section.  I really enjoyed the depth of our conversations during breaks.  It was at this time that I learned about his "Compete Rebirth of the Cool" project and was intrigued.  The way he described it, I thought it might make for an interesting programming choice with my student ensemble at some point.  We traded CDs, as I often do with musicians in my travels, and when I listened to it on the plane ride home, I knew I had stumbled upon a winner.

I really like Jeff's idea of using the instrumentation from the original Miles Davis nonet (a.k.a. "Miles Davis' tuba band") and attempting to continue where Davis, Mulligan and Evans left off.  I saw a similar approach when the Wind Ensemble conductor at UConn, Dr. Jeffrey Renshaw commissioned composers to write something using the same instrumentation as Stravinsky's Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments.

Earlier this week I posted Jeff Presslaff's "Marda Loop", the opening selection from my UConn Jazz Ensemble concert on 4/16/2015.  Here are three more of his terrific pieces from the same concert:

Measure for Measure for Measure:


Sincerely Ours:


Sleepless:


All of this music from "The Complete Rebirth of the Cool" is available for purchase on Jeff's website: http://www.jeffpresslaff.com/recordings.php

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