Category Archives: Jazz

The St. George Voices in Concert

The St. George Voices performed well in their annual concert Sunday for an appreciative audience.  The repertoire included music of the Renaissance, jazz, pop and contemporary choral music, all sung unaccompanied. From the opening “Sing we and chant it” by Thomas Morley to the closer, Billy Joel’s “And so it goes,” the Voices acquitted themselves admirably, navigating the differing styles and historical periods with finesse, great intonation and all around musicianship.  Great job everyone!

You can listen to a recording of the concert here:

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Peter Gunn, Henry Mancini, and my Jazz Roots

People often ask me how I came to play Jazz.  For a long time I was at a loss to explain.  My mother was a classical pianist who played at home every day, but the closest she came to playing Jazz was a bit of Gershwin.  My late brother Charlie, a child of the 50’s, listened to Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and their ilk on the AM radio in his  ’51 Mercury with the suicide doors and a chrome gas pedal.  My dad the Buick mechanic’s favorite piece of music was the Nutcracker Ballet, which he listened to on old 78’s. We had no Jazz records, excepting a few Spike Jones novelty tunes.  (The standard “My Old Flame” narrated by a Peter Lorre impersonator was a favorite) One evening a week, however, Jazz played for 22 minutes while mom and dad watched the Peter Gunn detective series, which aired from 1958 through 1961.  I don’t remember being taken with the music at first hearing, as my four-year old self was by the Theme for “Highway Patrol” starring Broderick Crawford. (I would listen to the opening theme and wander off until the show was over, then come back and listen to the theme again.)

 The Peter Gunn theme of course has been in the public ear ever since the show first aired and won Mancini the first Grammy for Album of the Year.  I asked my mother to get the album, which I wore out on our three speed mono record player.  I began taking formal music lessons at age ten, and asked her to get some of the music for the show, so a few weeks later a piano version of the soundtrack album arrived. It has since been lost, but I remembered many of the tunes, “The Brother Go to Mothers”, “Fallout” , “Dreamsville” and “Sorta Blue”, which I eventually transcribed for the St. George Jazz Ensemble.  I picked up the original soundtrack on CD about ten years ago, and the music still sounds fresh.  There’s lots of space in the tunes and some great players, including the young John Williams.  Listening to it now, I still smile and snap on 2 and 4.

The complete series is out on DVD, and if you’re a fan of film noir and cool Jazz, it’s worth a look.  It’s a world of smoke-filled rooms populated by hipsters and sultry vocalists where it’s always sometime between midnight and dawn, audiences listen quietly and applaud for the band,  the romance is understated and Peter’s suit always looks great, no matter how many times he gets beaten up.

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Concert Report – Mose Allison at Jazz Alley

Mose Allison

  

Mose Allison brought his fusion of blues, jazz and humor to Seattle’s Jazz Alley last night. Born in the Mississippi delta in the late twenties, Mose comments on his web site that he’s probably the last surviving bluesman that actually plowed a field with a mule.  Working with a trio featuring Seattle musicians Phil Sparks on bass and Milo Petersen on drums, Mose opened with a bluesy instrumental, then launched into several of his signature vocal tunes, including “Your molecular structure” and an interesting version of “You are my sunshine” done in a minor key, which changed the song from a light sing-a-long favorite to a sad lament.  His piano solos were great and the grooves reflected his usual fusion of Jazz and down home Blues.  

But the show was really about the lyrics.  Mose’s poetry still sounds fresh and always has a humorous turn of phrase.  Every tune brought a chuckle.  My favorites:” Don’t give me none of that Old Man Crap” “Gonna make me an old man punk rock band, and raise some hell,,,,in Arizona.” “You call it joggin’, I call it runnin’ around.” 

Jazz Alley is a great venue.  Not a bad seat in the house, great food and a good sound system and lights.  Wish we lived closer.

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Live Jazz on the Library Steps

 

The St. George Jazz Ensemble

We’re back from a great show last night at the downtown library.  The St. George Jazz Ensemble plus  the St. George Voices played on the steps of the Headquarters Library on Caroline Street with several hundred people in attendance.  The heat moderated a bit for us and the audience, who got to hear some fine swing, latin grooves and ballads.  The Voices opened the show with the National Anthem, in a jazz flavored arrangement by Darmon Meader.  The band followed up with Shoshona, an up tempo Latin Jazz tune by Mark Levine.  Great solos by all, including a percussion duel with Slam on drums and Marion on congas.  Tunes followed by  Duke, Henry Mancini, Mongo Santamaria and Herbie Hancock, the Voices filled in with a nice bossa by Darmon Meader and Peter Eldrige, then the band ended the set with tunes by Frank Sinatra and Dizzy Gillespie.  The audience was very appreciative.  One person commented: “What a wonderful gift to the community.”  We played a Sonny Rollins blues tune, “Sonnymoon for two,”  for an encore and called it night.  

 

Many thanks to the players: Rob, Lisa, David, Nathan, Earl, Stephen, Becky, Alan, Slam, Tres, and Marion.  We’re having some fun now you betcha…..  

Thanks also to the Voices, Mary, Cindy, Abbey, and Todd.  Great tuning under less than ideal conditions.  

Special thanks to Slam, for filling in many times for our regular drummer Brian, currently on assignment in Afghanistan.  We expect him back in a few weeks.  

The St. George Jazz Ensemble has been around for close to five years.  There’s been a lot of great music and even more laughs.   Several years ago at a rehearsal in the gallery, I mentioned that we’d just played some pretty hip stuff, which made us all “Jazz Cats.”  Brian the drummer replied: “Well if we’re all cats, then this must be the litter box.”  I love my job……. 

For a slide show of the event: http://picasaweb.google.com/105544391348192369115/StGeorgeSJazzEnsembleOnTheLibrarySteps#slideshow/5498879399114161266

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Sacred Jazz

People often ask me how we get away with playing jazz during a church service.  I don’t think that we’re getting away with anything.  In my opinion, beauty is beauty, regardless of musical genre.  Bach wrote a lot of secular music for organ, preludes and fugues for example, that were and still are played in many churches every Sunday, since that’s where most of the pipe organs are.  (I’ll be right there with them when our new pipe organ is installed in a few months.) We’ve been listening to them in church for 350 years and there’s nothing sacred about them.  We do , however, associate them with the prelude before the service and look on them as a cue to get our spiritual house in order for worship.   At St. George’s, we’re using instrumental Jazz to achieve the same end.

Jazz, when it was the dominant popular music in America,  was associated with the dance hall, supper club and tavern.  It was party music.  In todays musical world, it has moved into the realm of art music, a niche market with a solid fan base where the music is sometimes complex and difficult for the uninitiated to understand, or in the case of smooth jazz, a pleasant background sound for the 5 day forecast on the Weather Channel.  From our perspective, the average person in the pew on Sunday in not a music historian.  They might recognize the second movement of Mozart’s “Concerto for Clarinet”, or not. They might remember that the original recording of “Naima” by John Coltrane, was played on sax rather than a clarinet, which is how we perform it. Most people, don’t hear the genre or make a cultural connection, they just recognize that both are beautiful pieces of music.  The fact is that the music we program in churches is grounded in the history and culture of the community that we serve.  In programming Jazz at one Sunday service, we are pushing the cultural envelope a bit, but we are also educating people who don’t listen to or know about this great American music. 

“But what about the theology?”  “How can you justify using a piece of music that has no connection with the sacred?”

If the composer didn’t make one for you, make your own.  I once wanted to program an anthem for the choir at a previous church, a setting of the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken”.  I ran it by the Rector ,who replied: “The Gospels didn’t end with the Evangelists.  The Word of God comes to us anew through the inspiration and writings of those who followed them.”

Thad Jones, the great Flugelhorn player, wrote one of the great ballads of all time: “A Child is Born.”  It’s a slow waltz with a stunning solo melody on Flugelhorn, the more mellow cousin of the trumpet.  We play it every Christmas Eve at the prelude at our Jazz Service.  It is not a Christmas song and has no connection with the Sacred at all.  But every Christmas Eve, its sheer beauty  moves a lot of people, some to tears, as they contemplate the Nativity of our Savior.  We’re changing the culture, one tune at a time.

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Welcome to St. George’s Music Blog

Hello All,

We’ve set up a blog to share info about musical events at St. George’s.  Check our blog to:

  • Get the latest info on concerts, club nights and special musical performances at St. George’s
  • Get updates from the music staff on the workshops they attend, all the cool stuff they learn and the interesting people they meet
  • Get info about future musical events

This is our first blog, so there will be a learning curve.  Thanks for your patience.

JHV

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