Each year, an audition committee of professional musicians selects a few exceptional student ensembles to represent the New England Conservatory Honors Ensemble Program. Two of these ensembles — Great on Paper and Choro Bastardo perform on Tuesday, April 1 at 8 p.m. in NEC’s Jordan Hall, 290 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA. It is free and open to the public. For more information call 617-585-1122.
Great on Paper is the jazz honors ensemble coached by faculty member Ted Reichman and featuring saxophonist Kevin Sun, keyboard player Isaac Wilson, double bassist Simón Willson, and drummer Robin Baytas. Founded on the principles of equality, freedom of speech, and reckless exploration, Great on Paper is an improvised, four-person party that goes into musical situations without an exit strategy. Featuring a typical jazz quartet configuration with a distinctly atypical bent towards the avant-garde and the folkloric, GOP taps into the jazz tradition without getting too ideological or self-conscious about it. They’ll be performing Carla Bley King Korn; Isaac Wilson Sincere; Kevin Sun Straight Face, The Wide One, Nomad; Simón Willson October 2013; Angelo Badalamenti arr. Kevin Sun Laura Palmer’s Theme from Twin Peaks.”
GOP performs mostly original music that is somehow both formally sophisticated yet, in moderate doses, pleasant to listen to. With numerous musical influences that range from Steve Coleman to Paul Bley to Stevie Wonder, GOP has no interest in disguising its catholic tastes, and the band’s co-mingling of diverse musical sensibilities allegedly lend it an air of refinement and worldliness. As one anonymous reviewer has said, “At their show in December, that new band GOP really put the ‘Status’ in ‘Status Quo!’” Call them what you will—a postmodernist mélange, abstract sound-fashioners, jazz charlatans—GOP takes no prisoners and doesn’t apologize when it steps on your feet; it just keeps on moving right along.
Choro Bastardo features harmonica player Ilya Portnov, violinist Ben Andrews, pianist Henrique Eisenmann, and Cristian Budu on pandero, coached by faculty member Amir Milstein. Choro is the traditional Brazilian instrumental music from the beginning of the 20th century. Choro Bastardo combines the traditional Choro style with each of the band members' different musical and cultural backgrounds to create a sonority that is different from the original, yet loyal to the playful spirit of that music. Using Baroque, early Jazz, and Contemporary Classical music as springboard, Choro Bastardo explores the different streams of music that can somehow share elements with the Choro tradition, recreating the atmosphere of cabarets and vaudeville in Rio de Janeiro. Mixing Jelly Roll Morton and Pixinguinha, Darius Milhaud and Ernesto Nazareth, John Cage and Jacob do Bandolim, Choro Bastardo represents a groundbreaking transformation in the realm of Contemporary Improvisation associated with neo-folklorist practices.
Choro Bastardo will be performing the following music Pixinguinha Vou Vivendo, Ignez; Jacob do Bandolim Santa Morena; Jelly Roll Morton Sidewalk Blues; Henrique Eisenmann Piangerito; Johann Sebastian Bach arr. Choro Bastardo Allemande from Partita in A Minor for Solo Flute, BWV 1013; Francisco Mignone Valsa de Esquina No. 5; Darius Milhaud arr. Choro Bastardo Copacabana from Saudades do Brasil, Op. 67; Sivua/Glorinha Gadelha Feira de Mangaio/Forro na Penha; and Ernesto Nazareth Apanhei-te Cavaquinho.
NEC’s Jazz Studies Department was the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory. The brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became President of the Conservatory in 1967, the Jazz Studies faculty has included six MacArthur genius" grant recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters, and alumni that reads like a who’s who of jazz. Now in its 44th year, the program has spawned numerous Grammy winning composers and performers. As Mike West writes in JazzTimes: “NEC’s jazz studies department is among the most acclaimed and successful in the world; so says the roster of visionary artists that have comprised both its faculty and alumni.” The program currently has 114 students; 67 undergraduate and 47 graduate students from 12 countries.
Founded in 1972 by musical visionaries Gunther Schuller and Ran Blake, New England Conservatory's Contemporary Improvisation program is “one of the most versatile in all of music education” (JazzEd). Now in its 41st year, the program trains composer/performer/ improvisers to broaden their musical palettes and develop unique voices. It is unparalleled in its structured approach to ear training and its emphasis on singing, memorization, harmonic sophistication, aesthetic integrity, and stylistic openness. Under Blake's guidance for its first twenty-six years, the program expanded its offerings under subsequent chair Allan Chase and current chair Hankus Netsky. Alumni include Don Byron, John Medeski, Jacqueline Schwab, Aoife O'Donovan and Sarah Jarosz; faculty include Carla Kihlstedt, Blake, Dominique Eade, and Anthony Coleman. “A thriving hub of musical exploration,” (Jeremy Goodwin, Boston Globe), the program currently has 43 undergrad and graduate students from 14 countries.