Friday, December 18, 2009

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: New CD and National Tour in 2010

Aside from a decade or so when big bands were all the rage, keeping a large jazz ensemble in top playing shape, ensuring that the group has the right players for the right positions, matching the band with the appropriate arrangements, and dealing with all the logistical and organizational challenges has always been an iffy proposition.

Taking a big band on the road and/or taking care of all the detail work required to record, package and properly distribute a big band CD can be even more challenging, particularly in a financial contraction as profound as the one we're now facing.

The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, led by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, nevertheless has plans to hit all of those targets in 2010 (yes, it's true that federal funding helps keep J@LC alive, and I'm glad of it, no matter what John McCain or anyone else has to say about it).

First up is Portrait in Seven Shades, the JLCO's first widely distributed studio CD since Don't Be Afraid: The Music of Charles Mingus (Palmetto), released in 2005.

Due Feb. 2, 2010, the recording features saxophonist Ted Nash's titular suite, with seven movements, each inspired by the work of a modern art master -- Chagall, Dali, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Pollack, and Van Gogh.

Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, on tuba, violinist Nathalie Bonin, and accordionist Bill Schimmel will make guest appearances on the recording, the group's first to be distributed by The Orchard.

Next up are the debut performances of the concert, with the orchestra joined by Bonin, Schimmel, and Clark Gayton on tuba, Feb. 4-6 at JALC's Rose Hall. The music will be augmented by lighting design and projections of the CD's artwork.

Finally, the JLCO gets back on the road, with a U.S. tour slated to open March 1 in Washington, D.C., and close with a performance March 29 at Lee Hall on the FAMU campus in Tallahassee, the closest this particular tour gets to my area.

Music from the new CD and compositions by Count Basie and Mary Lou Williams, among other artists, will be included in the repertoire for the touring show.

Last time I caught Wynton and the LCJO was at this year's Jazz Fest, when they performed the "Congo Square" suite, with guest African drummers, on the Congo Square stage. It was a texture-rich, sometimes moving (if overlong) exploration of jazz's roots in African rhythms, and the music's development in New Orleans and beyond. The concert pic, above, is one I shot at that performance.

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