Arrangement of “Kansas City Stomp” Premiered by the Eastman Jazz Ensemble- Reuben Allen

I hope that everyone is in good health and enjoyed the holiday season!

In December I made a trip to Rochester, NY to hear the Eastman Jazz Ensemble play my arrangement of Jelly Roll Morton’s Kansas City Stomp. I wrote the arrangement while I was a senior at the Eastman School of Music and revised it throughout last summer. The band sounded fantastic not just on my chart, but throughout the whole program, and I even got a great recording of the performance! (see below)

I was inspired to arrange an early jazz piece like Kansas City Stomp after listening to Gil Evans’ album New Bottle Old Wine which features the great alto saxophonist Julian Cannonball Adderley. Evans brings a modern touch to several older jazz standards while still maintaining their essence and reaffirming their timeless quality. Some examples are his arrangements of W.C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues, King Porter Stomp (another classic by Morton), and Bix Beiderbecke’s Davenport Blues.

Kansas City Stomp was written by Jelly Roll Morton around 1905. In his Library of Congress interviews with Alan Lomax, Morton explains that it was inspired by a saloon called the Kansas City Bar. It may be interesting for the listener to hear the original recordings of Kansas City Stomp since that was much material I drew from. You can hear Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers playing it in this YouTube clip. I incorporated many of the melodies and phrasing of this recording and Morton’s solo piano recording in my arrangement, and orchestrated these for the different sections of the big band. For instance, I often gave the tuba part to the bass, bass trombone or bari. sax. I also reharmonized much of the material. The clarinet arpeggio at the end of the original recording for instance was harmonized for all five saxophones. Finally, I also composed my own material based off the original, such as the saxophone backgrounds at 1’59” and the shout chorus at 3’32”.

You can hear my arrangement at www.reubenallenmusic.com.

Best,

Reuben

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Life after school-Martin Nevin

My time since teaching at Stanford Jazz Workshop has been very interesting. After graduating from Manhattan School of Music in May, I have been enjoying my first chunk of time outside of school since I was about 5 years old. I feel more responsible for my personal and musical growth than ever before. I have had time to take advantage of living in New York City without the obligations that come with being a student. I have also been able to meet and play with many musicians I didn’t know previously, while also continuing to strengthen musical connections with the ones that I have known for a while. One of the people I have been playing with a lot is pianist/composer Sam Harris. Sam’s music is challenging, yet incredibly unique and inspired. Recently, I played with Sam’s group at the Jazz Gallery. This performance featured Logan Richardson on saxophone and Greg Ritchie on drums. It’s always a deep pleasure to play with musicians of such a high caliber who are also some of the best listeners. Those are the most inspiring musical experiences for me. I have posted a video from that show here. 

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Matt Marantz – September-October Musical Experiences

This fall, I started my last (2nd) year studying at the Monk Institute program down in New Orleans, Louisiana. We’ve had some cool experiences in that program this year so far. Each month, a visiting artist comes and does a week-long residency at the Monk Institute and they give improv/composition classes, as well as giving history/listening sessions. Sometimes they even play with us in class which is one of my favorite things about when a visiting artist comes to the program. The first visiting artist we had this year happened to be one of my favorite jazz musicians of all-time, guitarist John Scofield. His recordings as a sideman and a leader have been among my favorite since early on in my introduction to jazz music. He’s played on so many great recordings as a sideman like Herbie Hancock’s “The New Standard” and Joe Henderson’s “So Near So Far – Musings for Miles”, and I’ve been a big such a big fan of his own records as a leader as well. So, having him here in New Orleans giving classes and lessons for the week was really exciting for me. While he was here, he would he would join in playing with us on the majority of the pieces that we played in class. It is always a wild experience to me to hear someone play up close that you’ve listened to so much on recordings before that. John’s an awesome improviser, and it seems like his own unique voice comes through on every piece he plays on. We also got to read a bunch of his original compositions during the classes, which was a great learning experience. He writes really cool tunes! It seems like each one has something unique about it, with great and memorable melodies. It was an inspiring week, and a great way to start the year.
Shortly after that, the Monk Ensemble traveled to Washington, D.C. to be a part of the annual festivities surrounding the international instrumental jazz competition that the Monk Institute puts on each year. This year, the Monk competition featured vocalists. We attended the semi-finals, which took place at the Native American museum in D.C., and then the next day we went to the finals which were housed at the Kennedy Center for the Arts. The semi-finals are cool because the judges and some of the gala performers are around – this year Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter could be seen milling around the museum when they had a free moment or two. (Last year was the bass competition, and one of my favorite memories from that year was watching Charlie Haden try out some of the semi-finalists’ basses back-stage after that part of the competition was over.) The next day was the finals – it turned out that I knew some of the vocalists that made it to the top 3 competition finalists either from school or through other friends, so it was cool to get to hear them perform some of their pieces on the concert. In addition to the vocal competition, each year’s gala concert features a set of music by some of the artists associated with the institute – This time Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath, and Terence Blanchard were among the groups that were performing there, so you could imagine the energy level in some of the groups they were a part of! As part of the gala program, the Monk Ensemble is also given the opportunity to play a tune on the concert, and this year we were joined by legendary trumpeter/vocalist Clark Terry (who is now over 90 years old!) and trumpeter Terence Blanchard. We performed Clark’s own composition, “Mumbles”, which is kind of a comedy sketch/blues. I tell you what, the man has still got it! It was just as funny to hear him perform that tune as it was on videos I’ve seen of him doing that sketch in other places decades ago. For me, though, the highlight of the concerts at the past two Monk competition galas that I’ve been to has been listening to the other groups that perform there – Last year Herbie played with Ron Carter and Wayne Shorter on a version of “Speak No Evil”, and I just remember that the rhythm section was swinging so hard on that tune that it was ridiculous! Herbie also played on a few tunes at the concert this year, and it seems like he always plays with such an amazing amount of energy – he’s also always so in-the-moment, reacting to ideas that appear in the music as it goes by as well as introducing lots of interesting ideas for the rest of the band to play off of. He is such an inspirational musician, and is still playing so great even at age 70.
Other than things related to the Monk program, I’ve been enjoying life as a whole and have been listening to some new music recently (some of which is on CD’s I’ve had for a while but just haven’t listened to much). Hank Jones and Charlie Haden’s “Steal Away” CD has been playing in the car recently, which is a collection of hymns and spirituals that they arranged and recorded as a duo. The sounds that both of those people get on their instruments is so rich, I love listening to them play together. It’s unfortunate that we lost Hank this year, the last of the living Jones brothers (Elvin and Thad are missed too), but it was a blessing that he was with us so long – Hank was 91 when he passed! Not all jazz musicians live that long.
I’ve also been way into the new internet radio program called Pandora. If you aren’t already hip to it, it’s really awesome! I love the fact that their library of music is so expansive (covering not just pop music, but a broad range of jazz and classical as well as folk/singer-songwriter music). It’s a great tool for discovering new artists that you may not have heard of before and for getting familiar with artists that you’ve heard a lot about, but just haven’t checked out a lot yet. It also brings back a little bit of that vintage-radio flare that makes you feel like you’re a little bit more connected to the rest of the world than just listening to recordings on your own music player by yourself – even though there’s no radio host present on Pandora and it’s a computer that’s making the choices that a human disc-jockey would normally make. I guess that’s a little bit sad in a way too, but given the fact that it’s almost impossible to find a real jazz radio station in a lot of American cities nowadays, I guess it’s the next best thing! (The closest thing my home-town has to a real jazz station is the University of North Texas radio station, but as soon as you get a little bit south of Dallas you can’t pick it up anymore on a lot of car stereos! My friend also does a jazz radio show on Sundays in the Dallas area, but that’s only once a week for 3 hours). So, the age of the internet is largely taking over, but fortunately there’s a lot of great resources on it to take advantage of. The recent live recording series from the Village Vanguard that can be found on NPR’s website, for example, is awesome – Kurt Rosenwinkel has a quartet-set from a year or two ago that is stellar which can be downloaded from that site. I’m sure there are many other great concert recordings there too.
Well, I’ve managed to type a lot more than was probably intended for a blog, so I guess I will sign off here for a while. I’ll end this note with a video that you can watch that’s posted on You-tube of the Monk Ensemble performing earlier in the summertime in Shanghai, China with guest soloist Herbie Hancock. (The Monk Ensemble is: Nick Falk – drums, Hogyu Hwang – bass, Victor Gould – piano, Billy Buss – trumpet, Godwin Louis – alto sax, and me – tenor sax).

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Reuben Allen returns from Mackinac Island, Michigan

I just finished a 2 month gig at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. It was a unique opportunity to play with great musicians every day while still having plenty of free time to compose, practice, exercise, and enjoy the natural surroundings of the island.

One of the composing projects was to finish a big band arrangement of my tune “Evanston”, which I hope will be premiered at my former high school at its jazz festival this February. Another was to revise and finish a big band arrangement of Jelly Roll Morton’s tune “Kansas City Stomp”. I’m thrilled that the Eastman Jazz Ensemble is going to play it in a concert on December 2nd!

While the gig required me to learn many tunes, it also forced me to maintain focus for long sets (sometimes an hour and a half) after playing the same tunes for weeks in a row. I played in a piano trio for diners, solo piano at various events in the hotel, and in quartet with a vocalist for ballroom dancers. Playing for dancers required me to learn tunes based on the different types of dances, styles, and tempos that dancers enjoy. While I already knew many swing tunes and ballads, I had to learn some cha-chas, rhumbas, waltzes, as well as rock songs. While these tunes may have simpler harmony than most jazz songs, I was nowhere near as familiar with their respective styles and subtleties. This was especially true for the rock and latin styles.

In regard to learning tunes I encourage beginning jazz students to spend more time exploring only a few tunes or even one.  Once you learn the basic melody and harmony to a tune, listen to a great recording or several recordings of it to glean more detail. After a while, you will develop a more personal attachment and maybe even interpretation to these songs which you would not achieve by trying to learn them quickly.

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Natalie Cressman talks about how stanford has changed her experiences as a musician in New York.

It’s right around midterm time at Manhattan School of Music, and my sophomore year is proving to be quite a lot of work. Some days I have over 9 hours of classes back-to-back!  But my experience this summer teaching at Stanford has definitely given me a leg up in learning how to manage time and energy to make it through so many classes. It took so much energy to teach all day with hardly a break that going to class from 11-9 is not nearly as draining as it would have been a year ago. Some of the music classes I take include Jazz Theory, Brazilian Music History, Afro-Cuban Ensemble, Classical Indian music ensemble, combo, Jazz history, vocal jazz ensemble, humanities, and various lectures/master classes.  The experience leading the jam sessions at Coho has also made me a lot more pro-active about getting out and playing with other musicians from outside my school.  I frequently go to sessions at Small’s, Fat Cat, Cleo’s, Creole, and Smoke jazz clubs. I also put together jam sessions at my school multiple times a week, something I didn’t do much before my experience at Stanford.  Perhaps most significantly, the networking with New York jazz musicians I did at Stanford make it so that now, when ever I go out and see a show or hit up a jam session, there are a lot more familiar faces. Many of the faculty and guest artists I’ve met at stanford (Victor Lin, Ambrose, Gerald Clayton Trio) are always playing gigs or hanging around at jam sessions. I always make a point to go out to support their shows and say hello afterwards.  It’s pretty awesome that teaching at Stanford has made it so some of the musicians I most admire are now friends of mine too.
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Reuben Allen returns from a trip to the Caribbean

I just returned back to Chicago after a week of family vacation to the Caribbean island of Anguilla. Besides snorkeling, stargazing, and just relaxing by the pool, there were some great musical experiences. The first was jamming with a trio of local musicians. I played some of the band’s original music, and they expressed interest in learning some of mine. I even taught the guitarist my tune “Evanston” by ear.

Another highlight of the trip was a family project to compose and perform a song for my Aunt’s birthday. My Uncle, brother, and I ended up writing and performing “The 8/9/10 Blues” (referring to August 9th, 2010). My brother played the drums, I played piano, and my Uncle sang three comedic and anecdotal verses. This family project as well as my experiences playing with the local musicians reinforced the importance trying to make music with everybody and especially, to have fun doing it.

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Matt Marantz – SJW thoughts

The Stanford Workshop was a great experience and I feel that I really learned a lot about working with younger musicians during the two weeks that I was present there. Hanging with Junior Mance and hearing him talk about Cannoball Adderly was one of the highlights of the two weeks for me. Junior is a kind and inspiring person, and to hear him tell stories about his firsthand experiences while playing and touring with other great jazz musicians such as Cannonball was really awesome. I always enjoy getting to be around great musicians like Junior, Tootie Heath, and Charles McPherson because it allows you to get to know them on a more personal level. Often this makes you realize how much someone’s personality comes through in their music.
I also greatly enjoyed hanging and playing with the other mentors at the workshop. I always feel inspired when an opportunity arises to get to play with musicians of their caliber, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s workshop.

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