26 June 2012
Divergence Jazz Orchestra - band launch
© Lucy McPhedran
In late July, Jenna Cave, Paul Weber, and 16 musicians from the Sydney jazz scene will launch the Divergence Jazz Orchestra in its first public performance. Jenna Cave writes about realising a long-term dream of forming a big band.
Being a dedicated composer in the jazz world can be a rather strange place to sit. Just last night someone asked me, 'There are composers in jazz? I thought it was all made up.'
It was a good point. Improvisation is one of the defining and most alluring characteristics of jazz, and performers needn't be 'specialist' composers to write great tunes for their own bands which often serve primarily as vehicles for improvisation. This is very different from the classical music world where the two roles of performer and composer are usually separated. Jazz is a collaborative and ensemble music, about responding to each other and sharing ideas. The dots on the page are only half the story.
I learnt the ropes as a large-ensemble jazz composer by working with the same musicians every week as a student at the (soon-to-be-dismantled) ANU School of Music. I'd start writing a piece, hear it played, get feedback from the players, rewrite, and so on.
Commissions for jazz composers are fairly rare. I have had commissions from ensembles such as the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Melbourne International Women's Jazz Festival sextet, as well as having my pieces performed by some fantastic bands around the place. But having my own big band to work with is something I've wanted to do for years, for creative reasons and to give me the chance to get my music heard more widely.
Paul Weber is a jazz trombonist whom I met while doing post-graduate study at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He and I talked about putting our own big band together for a good 18 months before we both had the time to dedicate to the project. Paul took on the job of recruiting the 16 musicians, many of whom are recent graduates or current students of the Con and have played together in horn sections for years. We share the role of the musical director in rehearsals.
At our first performance we will be playing eight of my pieces, which date back to 2006. In true obsessive-composer style I've spent the last six months rewriting and going through the charts with a fine-tooth comb. Paul and I spent a lot of time on the instrument parts to ensure that they were clear in intent, as well as allowing the players (particularly rhythm section) room for creative input. This fine balance is vital in what we aim to create: compositionally interesting and expressive music that harnesses the spirit, groove and excitement that only improvised music can bring.
As our aim is also to promote jazz composition more widely, we will in addition feature works by Australian jazz composers Cameron Earl and Nadia Burgess at our debut performance.
Divergence Jazz Orchestra: Jenna Cave (composer/bandleader), Paul Weber (trombone/bandleader); Dane Laboyrie, Rob Campbell, Matt Collins, Will Gilbert, Paul Meo (trumpets); Justin Buckingham, Josh Willard, Louis Klaassen, Evan Atwell-Harris, Chris O'Dea (saxophones); Brendan Champion, Tim Coggins, Mitch Nissen (trombones); Peter Koopman (guitar); Dave Groves (bass); Tim Geldens (drums).
Divergence Jazz Orchestra Band Launch
29 July at 7pm - the Wall, Leichhardt, NSW
Works by Nadia Burgess, Cameron Earl, Jenna Cave
Full event details in the AMC Calendar
See also: Divergence Jazz Orchestra Band Launch - Facebook event
Jenna Cave - AMC profile
© Australian Music Centre (2012) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
Jenna Cave (b. 1984) is a composer of contemporary large ensemble jazz, chamber music and music for film and screen. She is the co-band leader and composer for the Divergence Jazz Orchestra.
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