Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Juilliard Jazz Orchestra at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola

Last Wednesday, when the lights went down over Noah Kalina's understated and acoustically successful interior at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, the view over the Park at dusk glowed and the skyline glittered as eighteen fresh young faces took the stage. As the downlights gradually took over from the view, there was some talk in praise of WBGO 88.3FM while the legendary composer and bandleader Gerald Wilson appeared to conduct the evening's performance.

Now in its fifth year, The Juilliard Jazz Orchestra gives its audience a unique opportunity to observe stars in the making at that point where nuanced expression takes over from crisp and polished technique. the evening's program comprised a selection of Gerald Wilson's sophisticated compositions, including Blues for Manhattan and a piece written in tribute to Mexican matador Carlos Arruza. It was a pleasure to hear the Orchestra's seemingly easy precision and tight coordination, and both moving and amusing to hear their youthfully vigorous interpretation of Mr. Wilson's contemplation about Romance. I was especially impressed with and taken by certain performances: Sharel Cassity on alto saxe, Peter Mazza on guitar, Peter Reardon-Anderson on tenor saxe, and Matthew Heredia on bass. I think the whole room was riveted, as was I, to hear pianist Mayuko Katakura alternating her smooth and subtle delivery of complex passages with outright pyro technics and emphatic phrasing.

Gerry Wilson, whose long career encompasses years with Count
Basie, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, has also taught at Cal State and UCLA for decades. His compositions run the gamut from blues to swing and onward, and often feature Spanish themes. (Mr. Wilson is also, if I'm not very much mistaken, the father of the great Anthony Wilson, who has played with Diana Krall since her earliest days.)

Trumpet virtuoso
Sean Jones,
at 27, plays lead trumpet for Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and is at the same time an Assistant Professor at Dusquesne while teaching at other schools, and a widely admired and much recorded soloist who played on Gerald Wilson's 2003 CD, New York, New Sound. His strikingly mature, fluid and warm virtuosity remained sympathetic to the Orchestra, which was sweet.

(The Roster: Saxophone --Sharel Cassity, Alto (and Flute), William Reardon-Anderson, Alto (and Flute), Thomas Gardner, Tenor, Peter Reardon-Anderson, Tenor, Paul Nedzela, Baritone. Trombone --Marshall Gilkes alternating with James Burton, Willie Applewhite, Paul Tarussov, Christopher Crenshaw.
Trumpet--Lee Tatum Greenblatt. Brandon Lee, Etienne Charles, Satoru Ohashi, Kyle Athayde. Piano -- Mayuko Katakura. Guitar -- Peter Mazza. Bass--Matthew Heredia, Drums -- Jerome Jennings.)

-Sean Jones has three albums out,
Gemini, Eternal Journey and a new one, Roots(which explores gospel), all available at

-Click on
this link for MP3 downloads of selected recordings Gerald Wilson made between 1968- 2003.

-Pictures of this year's Juilliard Jazz Orchestra by Peter Schaaf are published here by kind permission of the Jazz Studies Division of The Juilliard School.

Picture of Gerald Wilson from Jazz News, of Sean Jones by Morrice Blackwell from

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