I have just returned to New York from a great week in Brazil. It’s “winter” down there, which means mid-70s. Rough. People were even wearing long-sleeved shirts. When I stepped off the plane a couple days ago at JFK it was actually cooler here (in the height of summer).
It was such a privilege to return to being a guest soloist and composer with the Jazz Sinfonica in Sao Paulo, an orchestra committed solely to playing jazz music. They have managed to keep this orchestra alive for many years with the help of government funding and the dedication of it’s Maestro, Joao Mauricio Galindo.
For these concerts I collaborated with Ben Allison (bass) and Steve Cardenas (guitar), a trio I have been working with lately playing the music of Jim Hall. The program included four movements from “Portrait in Seven Shades,” originally written for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and three pieces by Ben Allison. The orchestrations were tackled by a team of talented in-house orchestrators we have worked with in the past: Rodrigo Morte, Tiago Costa and Douglas Fonseca.
Big projects like this tend to start off a little shaky and this event was no exception. While the orchestra sounded wonderful, there was a lot of music to learn in a short amount of time (three rehearsals). We had a couple odd time signatures to deal with (13/8 in the case of my “Dali” and 5/4 with Ben’s Dr. Zaius) and this took some time feel natural.
The first concert Friday night had a few interesting moments but for the most part came together well and was nice to finally perform the music was had been working hard to pull together. Saturday’s concert was fantastic - almost sold out auditorium, great energy and a very connected musical experience.
There is a discussion in the works about returning to play the entire seven-movement suite, complete with projected images of the represented artists - Monet, Dali, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall and Pollock.
Sunday was spent relaxing at the home of our friend, saxophonist Denis Lee and his family. They prepared a great lunch for us, and Denis and I along with his friend Ricardo, got to jam for a few minutes, which we, unfortunately, had to cut it short to get to the airport for our overnight flight back to NY.
I want to thank Maris Pupo for arranging the week; Maestro Galindo for being so cool and flexible, and really learning our music; the wonderful orchestra for embracing this tough music with passion and great spirit; and Ben and Steve for offering their complex musical understanding at all times (and for the great hang).
Here is a link to a short clip taken by someone in the audience (with a lack of formatting experience...) - the last few seconds of “Chagall.” I am hoping to receive some good quality video at some point.
Thanks for reading!