Every once in a while, I get it right. Last week I predicted that the premiere performance of John D'earth's Green Chemistry, his new suite for jazz band and soloists, was going to be terrific. As it turned out, "terrific" was an understatement. The fans who packed the University of Virginia's Old Cabell Auditorium last Saturday night may never forget the amazing music and stunning performances that they heard that evening.
John D'earth and members of the University of Virginia Jazz Ensemble, 26 February 2011. (Photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2011. Click directly on any image to see a larger version.)
Here's what I had to say, after hearing the piece in rehearsal: Each of the five movements has a separate character -- sometimes funky and sometimes swinging. There's a lovely section in which an Afro-Latin groove propels a gorgeous interplay between flutes, tenor sax, and fluglehorn. And there are one or two occasions when the entire group erupts into short episodes of free improvisation. What's probably most impressive is the way that John has woven all of these elements into a seamless whole. It should be a terrific concert.
As I've said, it's nice to be right.
Jeff Decker, tenor sax, and John D'earth, 26 February 2011.
One of John's goals in writing Green Chemistry was to foster a spontaneous give and take between the soloists -- the members of the Free Bridge Quintet, all of whom (including John) are members of the university's faculty -- and their students in the Jazz Ensemble (which John directs). He succeeded beautifully.
Members of the University of Virginia Jazz Ensemble, 26 February 2011.
There were any number of remarkable collaborations, during the concert -- between Free Bridge drummer Robert Jospe and Jazz Ensemble drummers Jack Kilby and Kendrick Smith, between Free Bridge pianist Wells Hanley and Jazz Ensemble pianists Robert Meyer and Nathan Hittle, and between Free Bridge sax player Jeff Decker and Jazz Ensemble's entire woodwind section.
Pete Spaar, left, and Chris Muir, right, 26 February 2011.
Pete Spaar, of the Free Bridge Quintet, and the Jazz Ensemble's Chris Muir worked together particularly well.
It's worth noting that the title of the piece is no accident. John was inspired by his admiration for the international "Green Chemistry" movement, which encourages chemists to explore and address environmental problems. John Warner, author of the seminal book Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice, which first described the "Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry," gave a talk before the concert.