Courtesy of American Composers Orchestra
Conductor George Manahan recognizes a composer at the rehearsal for the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute reading.
Conductor George Manahan recognizes a composer at the rehearsal for the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute reading. Courtesy of American Composers Orchestra
Early this month, Columbia University's Miller Theatre looked just a little bit like the set of American Idol. In the middle of the darkened auditorium was an official-looking table with seats for four panelists aglow, thanks to special lighting. Composers Derek Bermel, Alvin Singleton, Tania Leon and Anthony Davis were all smiles as they took their places, eager to spend an evening paging through oversized scores.
Although there was thankfully no counterpart to Simon Cowell among them, the panel's judgment had determined the night's concert fare. Last summer, thirty composers were accepted into the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, a creative partnership between Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies and the American Composers Orchestra. The idea was to give composers coming from the jazz tradition access to orchestral writing techniques. Of those initial participants, eight were eventually selected to have their pieces performed in public readings by the ACO.
After months of waiting for the works to be completed, the audience was abuzz with excitement. Henry Threadgill, Marty Ehrlich, Amina Figarova and Muhal Richard Abrams were among those spotted in the full house, as well as JCOI instigator and director George Lewis. Conductor George Manahan took the podium. With only a day's rehearsal, some pieces were a bit rough around the edges. But the excerpts below, recorded June 5-6, 2011, will give you a first glimpse of these symphonic newborns, most of them subtly influenced by their jazz parentage.