The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Westchester Jazz Orchestra

‘Moving into tomorrow’

Westchester Jazz Orchestra artistic director Mike Holober.
 
By R.J. MARX

The Westchester Jazz Orchestra begins its 2011-2012 season with a concert on Saturday, Sept. 24, featuring guest performer and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano.

“I’ve been looking forward to collaborating with WJO for some time,” said Mr. Lovano this week. “It’s one of the hippest bands on the New York scene, always moving into tomorrow.” 

Mr. Lovano, well known to Katonah audiences for his many years as jazz director at Caramoor, will be playing with the 17-member WJO, a group that includes many northern Westchester stars, including Katonah’s Larry Farrell on trombone, North Salem’s Marvin Stamm and Pleasantville’s Jon Owens. Both Mr. Stamm and Mr. Owens are trumpeters. The band has been playing throughout the county since its inception in 2003.

The first gig of the new season comes on the heels of the release of the band’s first CD, “Maiden Voyage Suite: The Music of Herbie Hancock.” The recording is a tribute to the classic jazz album, “Maiden Voyage,” recorded by keyboardist Herbie Hancock in 1965.

“It’s pretty extraordinary that the first week out of the box our CD was number 13 in radio airplay throughout the country,” said the band’s co-founder and executive director, Emily Tabin, a Chappaqua resident. “It has been coming in brilliant, extraordinary, does Herbie Hancock’s original vision proud. It’s being really well received. I do feel the CD is propelling us to a new level of recognition.”

Ms. Tabin said that the group is drawn from jazz musicians throughout the area. “Most everyone lives in Westchester, started out almost all Westchester. We were smaller when we started, so we’ve added personnel; we picked the person who would be best in all positions.”

Talent is often suggested by word of mouth, drawn from the best of the New York City jazz scene.

“New York is the jazz capital of the world,” said Ms. Tabin. “A lot of people who play in the city, and travel around the world, happen to live in Westchester. There’s a very large number of jazz musicians in the county. A lot of them know each other, but we have created in WJO a fertile ground for great musicians.”

Players have experience with leading big bands in town, including the Village Vanguard Orchestra or the Maria Schneider Band. WJO’s artistic director, Mike Holober, is involved with the city’s jazz pulse, and often recruits from the best of the best. Even substitutes are known for their excellence — for example, the great drummer and teacher John Riley and the award-winning bassist John Patittuci, a Hastings resident, are among two of the “subs.”

“The musicians all trust each other,” said Ms. Tabin. “They put in their best.”

She said the group holds three rehearsals before the season concerts, held at the Irvington Town Hall. When they recorded the CD, rehearsals were held at the Master’s School in Dobbs Ferry. “We have a great ongoing partnership with them,” said Ms. Tabin.

Mr. Lovano’s appearance with the band is a natural evolution, as he has served on the group’s advisory board since the beginning. “He’s had such an amazing career, big band experience, led all different kinds of groups and won Grammy polls,” said Ms. Tabin.

The concert will consist of songs from the group’s CD, along with new arrangements of Mr. Lovano’s compositions.

New faces in the group include trumpeter Scott Wendholdt, who replaces the band’s Jim Rotondi, now teaching in Austria; and on the administration side, a new marketing director, Marty Rotberg.

Ms. Tabin said that the group hopes to expand its geographic base, with an upcoming gig at SUNY Orange, as part of their jazz fest, and gigs in Rockland. With the success of “Maiden Voyage,” she anticipated that the CD could lead to great recognition and touring opportunities.

During his celebrated career, Mr. Lovano has won one Grammy Award, been nominated for eight more, and has been honored as DownBeat magazine’s Jazz Artist/Musician of the Year, Tenor Saxophonist of the Year, as well as winning “Album of the Year.”

WJO’s 2011-12 season continues with “Master Keys: Music of Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal and Herbie Hancock” on Dec. 3; “Bossa! Tango! Flamenco! on Jan. 28; and “Music of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles” on April 14. WJO’s concerts are partially funded by the New York State Council on the Arts, Arts Westchester and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

The concert begins at 8 p.m.; “Open Mike,” an interactive chat with Mr. Lovano hosted by Mr.  Holober, will begin at 7:15 and is free for ticketholders. Reserved seating tickets are $40 adults/$35 seniors/$10 students. Subscription and group discounts are available. Tickets: www.westjazzorch.org, Irvington Theater box office, 591-6602.

Tickets for the remaining concerts are $35 for adults, $30 for seniors and $10 for students. Subscription and group discounts are available. Tickets: www.westjazzorch.org, Irvington Theater box office, 591-6602. WJO: 861-9100.


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SEPTEMBER 16, 2011

The Westchester Jazz Orchestra.