Essentially Ellington: High-School Jazz Band Finalists Announced

Jazz bands from two Florida high schools made the list of 15 finalists selected to play the 15th annual Essentially Ellington competition and festival in New York, May 8-10 at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

The Sunshine State bands headed to NYC are both from South Florida: Dillard Center of the Arts, in Fort Lauderdale; and New World School of the Arts, in Miami. Bands from those high schools and one other school in the Southeast — The Lovett School in Atlanta — will compete with a dozen others from Washington State (3), Wisconsin (2), Texas (2), Massachusetts (2), California (2) and New York City (1).

The bands will participate in a variety of jam sessions and workshops. The closing concert, May 10 at Avery Fisher Hall, will feature performances by the top three bands, with JALC head Wynton Marsalis sitting in as guest soloist; and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Judges for the competition: Wynton Marsalis, David Berger, Ted Buehrer, Jimmy Heath, and Rodney Whitaker. Festival clinicians: Walter Blanding, Ronald Carter, Vincent Gardner, Wycliffe Gordon, Dana Hall, Sherman Irby, Loren Schoenberg, and Reginald Thomas.

The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program encompasses the competition and festival, as well as regional festivals, resources for jazz curriculum, a summer teaching session for band directors, and monthly newsletters.

For more information on “Essentially Ellington,”  click here.

CD Review: Wynton Marsalis, He and She

I’m greatly looking forward to hearing Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra play Jazz Fest in New Orleans, later this month.

he-and-she1Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to his quintet’s new He and She, on Blue Note, a project alternating the trumpeter’s music tracks with his spoken-word piecles. I reviewed the CD for Las Vegas City Life – click here to read. Or see the text, below.

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Wynton Marsalis

He and She (Blue Note)

As the most familiar brand name in jazz, Wynton Marsalis has carte blanche to put together any project he chooses.

In recent years, the trumpeter has successfully collaborated with country outlaw Willie Nelson on a blues set, performed large-scale compositions with his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, written and played on the soundtrack for the Ken Burns television documentary “War,” and made a political statement with his quintet (2007’s From the Plantation to the Penitentiary).

So it’s no surprise to hear Marsalis apply his pen and his horn — still a thing of beauty, whether holding long tones, ripping through 32nd-note passages, or altered with a mute — to a set of mostly post-bop jazz intermingled with his playful spoken-word passages on the nature of young love.

Marsalis’s current quintet has to count as one of his best, given its compelling approach to disparate styles here.

“School Boy” is swaggering early jazz, while the free-minded “Fears” has bassist Carlos Henriquez’s fleet-fingered fretwork dialoging with the band. And both the halting waltz-time bounce of “Sassy” and the straight-ahead swing of “The Razor Rim,” also in 3/4, open up for the aggressive work of saxophonist Walter Blanding on soprano and tenor, respectively.

Revelations? No. Blue-chip jazz? Yes.