Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reminders of the future of jazz

For those naysayers and/or moldy figs who say, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that jazz is dead, don’t buy it. The music isn’t even on life support, given the attention and interest it receives from music educators and their serious students at college, high school and lower levels.

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington” competition each May draws perhaps the most fanfare. But it certainly holds no monopoly.

Consider last weekend’s Charles Mingus High School Competition at the Manhattan School of Music, where schools from New England dominated the winner’s circle.

Among Mingus’s compositions performed were “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” “Fables of Faubus,” “Better Get Hit in Your Soul,” “Jelly Roll” and “Ecclusiastics.”

Competition co-founder Sue Mingus, the bassist’s widow and musical champion, said: “For years, Mingus’s music was thought to be too difficult to perform, and today, the spirit and vitality that was heard by all of the young musicians playing Mingus’s music was really thrilling.”

The winning ensembles included:
  • Best Big Band – Regular High School: The Rivers Big Band, The Rivers School; Weston, Massachusetts (Philippe Crettienne, director).
  • Best Big Band – Specialized School: Academy Big Band, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts; Hartford, Connecticut (Douglas Maher, director).
  • Mingus Spirit Award: Rio Americano Combo, Rio Americano High School, Sacramento, California. (Maxwell Kiesner, director).
  • Best Combo – Regular High School: Foxborough High School Jazz Quintet, Foxborough, Massachusetts (Stephen C. Massey, director).
  • Best Combo – Specialized High School: Manasia Improv Ensemble, Manhattan School of Music Precollege (Jeremy Manasia, director).

Congratulations to these winners, as well as the winners of best arranger, and outstanding and section categories from this nationwide competition.

Berklee Festival is right around the corner
It is also good to note that in less than a month – March 13 – Boston’s Berklee College of Music will host its 42nd annual High School Jazz Festival, with 200 bands and 3,000 musicians expected to compete for $175,000 in partial scholarships to Berklee’s Five-Week Summer Performance Program.

The Hynes Convention Center event will also feature free clinics by trombonist and producer Delfeayo Marsalis, drummer Peter Erskine and trumpeter Eric Miyashiro, as well as performances by the Crescent Super Band, an internationally touring all-star high school ensemble from Utah, Berklee's Concert Jazz Orchestra, Global Jazz Institute, City Music, Salsa, and P-Funk ensembles. New this year is Band Slam, a non-competing category for students who play non-jazz styles, ranging from hip-hop to bluegrass.

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