Last modified: Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra to make Bloomington debut
Acclaimed ensemble to present '100 Years of Jazz'
David Baker is one of the nation's leading spokesmen for jazz and its cultural and historical significance. But the Indiana University Distinguished Professor of Music is rendered almost speechless when asked to describe his feelings about the first-ever Bloomington performance by his renowned Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra.
"I almost don't have the words to say just how I feel," Baker said.
"I'm just so excited knowing that this will be the first time we'll perform here and that we're bringing one of the premier orchestras in the country to our own backyard," he continued. "It means so much to me that my students here will be able to see us perform. And I'm thrilled that the all-star musicians who make up this orchestra will get a chance to visit our campus and see firsthand what we're trying to do in our Jazz Studies Department as well as in the rest of the School of Music."
The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, led by Artistic and Musical Director David Baker, will present "100 Years of Jazz" at the IU Musical Arts Center on Aug. 5 at 8 p.m. The concert is part of the School of Music's annual Summer Music Festival.
The ensemble serves as the orchestra-in-residence at the National Museum of American History's Division of Cultural History in Washington, D.C. The "100 Years of Jazz" program will feature music written by some of the 20th century's most significant jazz composers including Jelly Roll Morton, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and Quincy Jones.
The SJMO, which was founded in 1990 to recognize the importance of jazz in American culture, re-creates big band jazz as its composers and arrangers intended it to be played, stripping away intervening changes and alterations. The orchestra has rediscovered old classics, premiered new discoveries and, more recently, begun premiering new works. Composed of 18 musicians from across the United States, the orchestra regularly performs the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie and many other jazz masters. The New Yorker has called the SJMO "the best jazz repertory band in the country," and the New York Times has described the orchestra as "culturally important ... spectacular musically."
Baker is chairman of the Jazz Studies Department in the School of Music and one of the nation's leading jazz composers and educators. He praised the SJMO's efforts to preserve the legacy of jazz greats such as the late Benny Carter, who passed away on July 12, as well as its efforts to uncover new music that has added to the jazz tradition.
"The big band has become almost a moribund concept," Baker said. "We've lost so many of the major giants of that era. This is one way to keep their legacy alive and to play some of the most exciting contemporary music, too."
The SJMO also strives to enrich the public's understanding and appreciation of jazz and its development within the context of American history. Baker said that audiences who come to listen to the orchestra often get the rare opportunity to hear music composed by the jazz masters that may never have been recorded or performed on stage. For instance, Duke Ellington left an enormous legacy of recordings and music, which are now preserved at the Smithsonian Institution. Baker's big band has performed some of the Duke's lesser-known work in concerts at some of the nation's leading concert halls.
"A lot of the music we play has never been heard live," Baker said.
The Bloomington audience will have the added bonus of getting to hear some homegrown Hoosiers showcase their skills on the Musical Arts Center stage. School of Music jazz studies alumni Shannon (Hudgins) LeClaire (alto saxophone) and Brent Wallarab (trombone) will perform in Baker's band at the Aug. 5 concert as will one-time doctoral student Lennie Foy (trumpet) and Joey Tartell, who recently joined the school's trumpet faculty. Seymour, Ind., native Royce Campbell, who served as a guitarist for musicians Henry Mancini and Marvin Gaye, also will perform.
General admission tickets for the performance are available for $14 ($8 for IU students) at the Musical Arts Center box office, TicketMaster at 812-333-9955, or online at https://www.music.indiana.edu/publicity/summer_fest/tickets.shtml.
For a complete listing of the School of Music's Summer Music Festival events, visit https://www.music.indiana.edu/publicity/summer_fest/.
To learn more about the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, visit https://www.smithsonianjazz.org/sjmo/sjmo_start.asp.