Under the direction of John D’earth, the U.Va. Jazz Ensemble of the University of Virginia’s McIntire Department of Music will jump, jive and wail at its first concert of the academic year on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall.
“The Art of the Big Band: Creative Gems of Jazz Composition” will focus on the writing and arranging inspired by the large musical ensemble known as the American big band – a sound that influenced a generation.
The big band musical ensemble – and consequently, the genre known as Big Band Music – originated in the United States. Beginning in the mid-1920s, big bands came to dominate popular music. Associated with jazz and the Swing Era, a big band group typically consists of rhythm, brass and woodwind instruments totaling approximately 12 to 25 musicians.
The U.Va. Jazz Ensemble has become one of the most respected jazz groups in the University’s history. Its performances feature repertoire from across the spectrum of the history of jazz. Concerts include both classic and diverse arrangements of jazz pieces from both modern and classic composers and original compositions by members of the ensemble.
Their performance Saturday will include musical masterpieces such as Duke Ellington’s “The Jeep is Jumpin’” and Count Basie’s arrangement of “Every Tub.” Other music performances will include Charles Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus” and “Boogie Stop Shuffle,” arrangements by the jazz trumpeter and bandleader Thad Jones, jazz standards like “Cherokee,” and newer music by present-day arrangers such as the bossa nova “Duende” by Rob Lussier and Greg Yasinitsky’s treatment of the Dave Liebman classic, “Piccadilly Lilly.”
Trumpeter and composer D’earth, a lecturer and director of jazz studies at U.Va., is enthusiastic about this new jazz band, which boasts a robust mix of new and returning members.
“I’m very excited about our soloists right now,” he said. “All of our sax players and trumpeters are very strong soloists.”
Two of the featured soloists will be flutist Gina Sobel and trombonist Doug Bethel. Both are community members and professional musicians who are donating their services to the jazz ensemble as friends of the band.
“Doug is one of my oldest friends and a world-class trombonist, improviser and composer,” D’earth said. “To have him in the trombone section and to hear him solo turns each rehearsal into a master class for my students and for me. And Gina, a newer friend and colleague, just sparkles on the flute.”
As a jazz musician and composer, D’earth is interested in the nexus of composition and improvisation and in working with musicians who are committed to pushing their own boundaries in both of these areas.
He has performed and recorded internationally and appeared on more than 50 CDs, working with jazz artists such as Lionel Hampton, Miles Davis, Pat Metheny and Clark Terry, among many others. He has composed and arranged music for the Kronos Quartet, Bruce Hornsby, the Dave Matthews Band, assorted symphony orchestras and numerous other groups and ensembles. He has recorded as a leader for Vanguard Records, ENJA Records, DoubleTime Jazz and his own Cosmology label.
Among his original works are the five-movement “Natural Bridge,” commissioned by the Kandinsky Trio, and “Suite Rakalam,” in four movements for string septet, trumpet and drum set, commissioned by the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival. He has also written a two-hour score for five instruments to be performed live with F.W. Murnau’s 1926 silent film masterpiece, “Faust.”
D’earth is co-founder of the official faculty jazz quintet, Free Bridge Quintet; the music director for the Thompson D’earth Band along with his wife; and leads the Charlottesville Swing Orchestra as well as his own group.
Tickets for Saturday’s performance are $10 ($5 for students, and free for U.Va. students who reserve 24 hours in advance), and can be purchased by calling the Arts Box Office at 434-924-3376 or visiting here.
To find out more about jazz events at U.Va.,visit music.virginia.edu/jazz-series.
For information, contact the McIntire Department of Music at 434-924-3052.