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The Soundcheck Series kicks off with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
The 2004/2005 season of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic marks the launch of an exciting new string of concerts — the Soundcheck Series, which pairs the Philharmonic with some big names from the worlds of jazz and pop.
The series kicks off in grand style with a performance from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on September 16th.
In the world of jazz, they don’t come much bigger than Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. In 1997 Marsalis won the Pulitzer Prize for his work “Blood on the Fields”(the first jazz musician to ever win the Pulitzer), and has been a seemingly tireless composer, performer, arranger, and “jazz ambassador.”
Ted Nash, who has played alto and soprano saxophones and clarinet with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for the last seven years, says that the LCO spends about four months on the road touring each year, and two months working in New York. They just returned from a month-long tour that took them all across Europe. Nash says the audience response in different countries is always interesting. “You start to get the feeling for the personality of the country or a particular culture, but there’s always surprises,” he says. “When we go to England, I’ve gotten sort of used to them being more laid back, more polite about their response, and at first you think it means they’re not as into it, but they’ll still request one or two encores. Then you go to Sylvania or Italy or Spain, where they tend to be more demonstrative.”
Nash says at a performance in Prague a few years ago, the early part of the show got virtually no audience response. Slowly the crowd warmed to the band, and they ended up playing six encores. And the toughest crowd? “New York tends to be the most jaded place we play. They listen to the music on a different level. Almost every time we perform at Lincoln Center we don’t get an encore, because the audience is like, ‘okay. That was good.’ They don’t like it any less, they just have a different response.”
Nash has been a distinguished figure in the jazz world since the late 70s, when at the age of 18 he came to New York and soon after released his first album Conception. A highly sought-after arranger who has played with many different artists, Nash was beginning to try his hand at an instrument other than alto sax when he got the call to join the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in 1997.
The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra boasts an enormous repertoire, everything from classic jazz to avant-garde pieces, unusual collaborations, and originals. “We have quite an extensive book of material,” Nash says. “A lot of it is original music that Wynton wrote or that I wrote. Ron Westray, our trumpet player, also writes for the band. Then we have themed music, we have Ellington’s music, we have Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk…”
For the September 16th performance, the LCO and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic will engage in a sort of dueling Peer Gynt. The Philharmonic will perform movements from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites No. 1 and 2, alternating with Ellington’s arrangements of Peer Gynt Suites No. 1 and 2 by the Lincoln Jazz Center Orchestra.
That’s the first part of the performance. The LCO returns after intermission with a program called “Out Here To Swing.” Though the night’s program will be announced from the stage, the “Out Here To Swing” set has previously consisted of originals and standards of big band style jazz from (or informed by) the “Golden Age of Swing.” The LCO changes the pieces sometimes, but selections from past performances have included “La espada de la noche” (originally arranged by Nash for the Lincoln Center’s Flamenco Jazz presentation), Ornette Coleman’s “Peace,” and Ellington’s “Symphonette” from Black, Brown, and Beige.