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The Whitney Center for the Arts…. and all that jazz!

What I love about jazz is the freedom. Of course, if you talk to a jazz pro, you quickly learn that the music has a pretty sophisticated structure that takes years to master. But to my ear (and eyes!) jazz musicians seem to be having more a friendly conversation then playing notes. Even the audience seems freed from concert etiquette. I was trained as a classical performer and grew quite accustomed (though not entirely comfortable) with the formality of classical music behavior. When do you clap? (Never between movements, they say. But what’s a movement?!?) Do you have to dress up? (No, of course not. But the performers will be dressed to the nines so prepare to feel out of place.) And do not, under any circumstances, make any sound! No coughing, no adjusting your seat. No superfluous sounds!

Contrast this environment to sitting experience in a jazz audience. The performers talk to each other (and not just through their instruments). You clap whenever you want to. Did you like that solo? Let the performer know it! Did the music bring something to your mind? Share it with your friend next to you. Feeling moved to dance a bit in your seat? Fine!

These varied practices, though canonized, developed through time. It’s not that one is better than the other. Apples and oranges. But there is a lot of pleasure to be found in musical variety, and variety is at its best in live performance.

In live performance, you get to hear music a way it will never, ever be played again. Live jazz is the best example of this. Performers are often performing well-known jazz standards but never the same way twice. Each solo taken is a new and unique interpretation of the melody, new harmonies might be introduced. Live music keeps a composition alive.

One of the more famous compositions is “Take Five,” which in 1961 became the greatest selling jazz single of all time when The Dave Brubeck Quartet first recorded it. Dave Brubeck is considering one of the absolute greats in American jazz. “Take Five” continues to be played and reinterpreted (by Stevie Wonder, Trey Atkins, and Carmen McRae, just to name a few) to this day.

Dave Brubeck’s sons, who lead the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, continue to regularly perform this work. The greater Sheridan community has a chance to become a part of this jazz legacy on February 2 when the Brubeck Brothers Quartet perform at the Whitney Center for the Arts at Sheridan College. “They represent the continuation of the creative contribution of one of America’s First Families of Jazz and Composition,” says Dr. Eric Richards of the Sheridan College Jazz Studies program.

The students of the Sheridan College jazz program have the unique opportunity to study the form from these masters. “The experiences our students gain by being mentored by successful artist-practitioners is invaluable to their own musical development. It’s also an amazing opportunity to connect with the Brubeck Brothers in terms of their family’s importance in jazz history,” explains Dr. Richards. Not only will the students study under these jazz pros, but they will have the opportunity to open for the Brubeck Bros. Quartet on February 2. “The SC Jazztet will perform a short opening set for the BBQ. It’s always exciting for our students to share the stage with respected professionals. They had a chance to experience this earlier this year when the SC Jazz Ensemble opened the Glenn Miller Orchestra concert at the WYO Theater. This will be especially gratifying for them to perform in our world-class concert space at the Whitney Center for the Arts.”

For more information on this concert and other events, visit WhitneyArts.org. Tickets are available at WYOTheater.com

By Dr. Erin Hanke, Director, Whitney Center for the Arts

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