Concerto for piano and jazz orchestra (big band with soloist)
by Nadia Burgess (2014)
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Performance by Sydney Conservatorium Jazz Orchestra, David Allen, David Theak from the CD Selected Works by AMC Represented Artists, vol. 53.
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Concerto for Piano and Jazz Orchestra mostly draws inspiration from the art music repertoire, in particular Piano Concerto No. 1 (1997) and Piano Concerto No. 2 (2012) by Carl Vine. These concertos continue the three-movement tradition of the piano concerto, are reminiscent of Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Ravel, yet they are set in a refreshing contemporary mould. They appeal to a wide audience, portraying a mostly tonal dimension, exhilarating pianistic virtuosity, masterful orchestration, rhythmic vitality, lyrical melodic content, novel structure and voicing of extended harmony most attractive to the jazz ear.
Further influence has come from Stuart Greenbaum's The Last Signal for Piano and Large Ensemble (2005), and compositions for jazz orchestra by Maria Schneider, especially Evanescence (1991), Nocturne (2000) and Hang Gliding (1999). The jazz orchestra was chosen as the accompanying ensemble due to its versatility and there exists lively interplay between it and the piano. The orchestra functions slightly outside its normal capacity as a jazz ensemble, assuming the role of orchestral accompaniment in the concerto format. Care was taken to maintain a proper balance throughout in order for the piano to be in the foreground most of the time, resulting in the use of mutes for the brass, the saxophones doubling on woodwinds and the drum part including percussive effects. Contrast, changing timbres, and tension and release prevail.
In Concerto for Piano and Jazz Orchestra the piano is lifted out of its usual role in the rhythm section of the jazz orchestra and given centre stage to be the main voice carrying thematic material, performing notated and improvised solos and displaying virtuoso passages fitting to the idiom. Each of the three movements contains a section open for limited, directed piano improvisation which flows out of notation, whereas the cadenzas are notated. Improvised accompaniment by the guitar, double bass and drums is guided by chord symbols and drum-feel indications. Compositional and performance techniques from art music and jazz are combined to create a moderately challenging concerto which can be appreciated by classical and jazz audiences.
Variation, modulation, motivic development, counterpoint, extended harmony and diverse orchestration are inherent in Concerto for Piano and Jazz Orchestra. Propulsion elevates the sense of adventure in Movement I, while Movement II guides the soloist and jazz orchestra away from the comfort zone of jazz practice. Movement III is bold, bright, rhythmically complex and completes the journey of this concerto from common ground for the soloist and jazz orchestra towards the orchestral art music genre. A thread of minimalism and South-East African music runs through Concerto for Piano and Jazz Orchestra, which can be classified as notated art music in a jazz environment.
Instrumentation: Solo piano, 2 alto saxophones (1 doubling on flute and soprano saxophone, 2 doubling on clarinet in Bb), 2 tenor saxophones (1 doubling on flute, 2 doubling on clarinet in Bb), baritone saxophone (doubling on bass clarinet), 4 trumpets in Bb, 3 trombones, bass trombone, jazz guitar, double bass, drums.
Duration: 20 min.
Contents note: In 3 movements.
Dedication note: Dedicated to Carl Vine
First performance: by Sydney Conservatorium Jazz Orchestra, David Allen, David Theak at Nadia Burgess: Concerto for piano and jazz orchestra (Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music) on 24 Sep 2014
Performances of this work
24 Sep 2014: at Nadia Burgess: Concerto for piano and jazz orchestra (Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music). Featuring Sydney Conservatorium Jazz Orchestra, David Allen, David Theak.
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