Eric Hirsh

pianist, composer, producer

Why Durham and why Jazz? Three Reasons.

August 13, 2014 by Eric | 3 Comments

On Monday, Art of Cool Project co-founder Cicely Mitchell guest blogged at ArtsNowNC in a piece called “Why Durham, and why jazz?” She presents a few reasons for why Durham is poised for innovation and growth in jazz, both artistic output and audience. The argument is fine, but it doesn’t dig deep enough, since the real purpose of the article is to raise awareness for the Kickstarter round for the 2015 festival. I’ve been thinking about this same subject for years now. I’ve been a Triangle resident since 2000 and a member of the professional musical community since 2006. Plenty of people who might read this post have a few more decades of authority than I, but that won’t stop me from opining :).

Glossing over the fact that an entire generation before mine laid the foundation for the current jazz scene (names like Jim Ketch, John Brown, Gregg Gelb, Chip Crawford, Glen Ingram, and dozens I’m missing), I have been thinking about why the scene was stagnant in the aughts, and finally saw the beginnings of a renaissance around 2010. I’ll put forth three possible contributing factors. I’d like to think Richard Florida and his healthily-funded Creative Class lab would be proud.

 1. The End of Brain Drain

It was quite a common occurrence for the best, most creative jazzers to come through an undergraduate program at UNC, Duke, or NC Central, and emigrate to New York, Chicago, or New Orleans upon graduation (see: human capital flight). This left the Triangle bereft of a critical mass of compelling, proactive musicians willing to invest in the area. At some point, for whatever reason, some people not only didn’t leave but others were coming back. Maybe it’s a love of the Bull City, maybe it’s a strategic move. Something about the area let these musicians know they could forgo the financial hardship of living in a big city and still find meaningful artistic work in North Carolina. Al Strong, co-founder of The Art of Cool Project, is a classic example. Undergrad from NCCU, masters from Northern Illinois University, which degree allowed him to come back and be an adjunct/assistant at NCCU and St. Augustine.

Furthermore, NCCU had the resources to start a graduate program in jazz. This not only retained some of its undergraduates from leaving the state, but also began to draw applicants from outside of North Carolina, infusing the local jazz scene with artists from other parts of the country. James “Saxsmo” Gates is from Virginia. Ernest Turner, while not a student at NCCU, came from New Orleans. Tension, fusion, friction, collaboration. These are ingredients for innovation.

2. Taking a Page from the Indie Rock Playbook

I’ll be the first to tell you that jazz musicians, as a trope, aren’t the most social, business savvy individuals. We wish we had a rabid fan base, a national tour, and great CD sales, but all we end up doing is messing around in different combinations of each other (The Joe Smith Duet ft Charlie Rogers, The Charlie Rogers Quartet w Joe Smith and two other guys) as background music at restaurants, all of us playing the same 50 tunes. Obviously, there’s a disconnect between the dream and the reality.

The Triangle had already seen wave after wave of indie rock/punk resurgence, especially with the proliferation of affordable home recording tools and a DIY/guerrilla marketing approach to fan building. As you might have read, the kids these days (even the classical and jazz ones that go to Julliard) listen to a lot of techno, pop, rock, reggae, and hip hop. So I’m thinking somewhere in there a few musicians watched the way local bands would help each other grow and take the risk of playing for the door at music venues (go where the audiences are) instead of steakhouses, and took a page from that book. That book also includes the idea of branding – having a visual and conceptual representation of your music that people can remember, to help spread the word. Here are some examples of bands that gained traction in the early 2010s:

  • The Mind Julep Jazz Band – specializes in swing-era dance music, and even dresses up in pre-WWII clothes
  • Peter Lamb and The Wolves – hey, that’s how you name a rock band. Residencies at Humble Pie, Casbah playing tangos and the Mario Brothers theme = wider appeal
  • The Brand New Life – Hailing from Greensboro. Come for the high-energy African/fusion stage show. Stay for the post-tonal, Mingus-like compositions.
  • Orquesta GarDel – Okay, yes, this is my own band. The relevant point is that we decided to stop playing exclusively at social-dance-produced restaurant events and start self-producing at the same clubs and festivals as the rock groups. (It worked.)

All three groups use one of the following: a website, Facebook, Twitter. Hey, this is a good time to plug that I curate a Twitter list of Triangle jazz musicians. Which is probably due for some updates. Suggestions?

3. The Art of Cool Project

And finally, The Art of Cool Project happened. Modern, current jazz never had any infrastructure in the Triangle. Jazz musicians, especially those making their living freelancing and teaching, weren’t able to put any extra effort into organizing, web developing, administering any sort of advocacy group. But Cicely has a bio-science degree and looooooooooooves data. Which is perfect for a non-profit in the digital age. So, here they come, and their fist tactic is to put on a series of well-curated (see above: branding, quality, trust) concerts in an intimate art gallery. They took the risk and burden of producing and promoting concerts, giving the movers and shakers and jazz innovators of the area a chance to be heard. Then other, maybe youngers,jazzers looked at the relative local success of those slightly more established jazzers and got inspired. They learned from their mistakes, sent out surveys, outgrew their original venue, and came back for a stronger second year. Their tax structure is “non-profit” but the way they behave is “lean startup

The Art of Cool Project can’t be all things to all people, and doesn’t represent all of the jazz that is happening in the Triangle (generationally, sub-genre-ly), but that’s the whole point. It can’t. It has the good sense to have a focused mission. And look! They consistently accomplish their goals!

Conclusion

Welp. That’s where my thinking has been. I’m sure we could tell the evolving story many different ways, and that I have missed out on some possible contributing factors. Also, kudos to the establishments that have come and gone and allowed Durham jazz to have a home. I’m talking about Whiskey, I’m talking about Casbah, I’m talking about Labour Love. They took risks on us. We need to thank them for that.

Looking forward to the next chapter.

My Week at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute

July 16, 2014 by Eric | 0 comments

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In my last blog post I announced that I had been invited to the prestigious Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute for a one-week jazz residency at their Chicago festival campus. It has been almost a month  and only now am I  able to decompress enough to write about my experience there.

When is the last time you had the luxury to focus on only one thing? My time at RSMI was a luxury, a blessing. At the opening session, on the first day, our coaches (jazz and education luminaries Dr. David Baker, Dr. Nathan Davis, Rufus Reid, Curtis Fuller) challenged us to explore our artistry deeply, to be open to learning from each other, to focus on growth. It was like going into a cocoon to transform. Normally, my daily life entails a tech job at a software startup, my wonderful wife, the three or four bands of which I am a member. All of a sudden that faded away. One stage, thirteen practice rooms, one kitchen, one dorm bed, and fourteen other top-notch jazzers. That’s it. Wake up, 3 hours of rehearsal, eat, 3 hours of rehearsal, eat, 3 hours of practice, sleep. Repeat.

But we weren’t entirely isolated from the world, only from our own responsibilities. Maybe less a cocoon and more a womb –  the Ravinia festival was our mother, nourishing us with the energy of touring acts playing right outside our window, the anticipation of tens of thousands of music lovers dining on the lawn waiting for their beloved John Legend, One Republic, Prairie Home Companion to serenade them. Us fellows could come and go, through the membrane, to witness the reality and logistics (ticket sales, trash cleanup) of making a career in live performance and then retreat back into the solemn space of the practice room to compose another four bars.

I was the eldest fellow. Most of the other musicians were still finishing their jazz undergrad or had recently graduated. Two were high schoolers from New Orleans, proving that even though the city has been through some rough times, its music community is still strong and its framework for mentorship produces jaw-dropping artists, wise beyond their years. All of the fellows were skilled technician at their instruments, possessed strong compositional tendencies, and most importantly, were kind, funny humans, adamant about jazz and teamwork. We had synergy. We were on the same page. We responded to each others’ suggestions, whether spoken or improvised.

The residency wouldn’t be possible without the Steans staff – a small militia of music majors preparing for grad school, taking a summer job in arts administration. Or maybe they were a gang of hooligans. Either way, they drove us around, printed our parts, and made sure we were amply fed. Fried chicken night twice? Thai night? Yes, please.

At the end of the week we put on a recital in which we divided into three quintets playing five pieces each – one for every fellow. During the week I had found inspiration to start writing again. That piece remains unfinished, but I know it will be called “To Comfort A Shadow.” Instead, at the recital, my group played another of my  recent compositions, “The Miraverse.” Here is the recording from our recital. In fact, you can listen to all of the great pieces on InstantEncore.com

I can’t tell you that I had a major epiphany at Ravinia. I can tell you that I reconnected to my musical self. The womb was nourishing and now I must bring that energy back into my own, local community. I need no more external validation – I continue to walk along the artistic path, writing and playing for those who would listen.

I Have Been Invited To Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute

April 24, 2014 by Eric | 2 Comments

I recently received the most surprising, amazing phone call  – I have been invited to participate in a one week long jazz workshop with other young, rising jazz talents at the Chicago area’s famous Ravinia Festival! This is the kind of thing that you can’t even apply for – industry folks nominate you and…well, you ‘get the call.’

The full name of the program is Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI), which has been nuturing artists for over 25 years . Me and umpteen other artists will gather for one week under the guidance of an amazing faculty, learn each others’ latest compositions, and perform at the festival on Friday June 20th. I’ve already worked under two of the faculty at the 2009 Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Institute – Dr. Nathan Davis (saxophone) and Art Blakey’s legendary trombonist, Curtis Fuller. I hope they both remember me. Rounding out the faculty are David Baker, a hardworking figure in jazz education (especially composition and arranging) and none other than Rufus Reid on bass.

I am humbled, honored, and excited to take part in the RSMI this year. And I know I could not have gotten to a place in my artistic career such that the ‘right folks’ would take notice if it hadn’t been for the Durham music scene, all of my wonderful colleagues, and especially my bandmates in The Beast, Orquesta GarDel, New Music Raleigh, and Shana Tucker. Thank you, thank all of you so much. It takes a village to raise an artist. That’s a Hillary Clinton thing, right?

 

 

 

Eric’s 2014 Art of Cool Festival itinerary

April 16, 2014 by Eric | 0 comments

It’s finally here! I’ve observed, performed for, and occasionally advised the amazing jazz advocacy team over at The Art of Cool Project ever since its inception. I couldn’t be more excited for and proud of this crew as we are two weeks away from Durham’s first annual Art of Cool jazz festival! The lineup that AOC has curated skews heavily towards the current generation (my generation) of progressive, innovative, genre-bending jazz artists, which is fantastic, considering they could have easily booked the Count Basie Orchestra, a Miles Davis sideman, a Blue Note artist or two, and called it a day. Props to Cicely and Al for favoring the up-and-coming over the well-established luminaries. I think Durham is in for a treat.

Like those Triangle journalists who salivated over the first few years of the Hopscotch festival, I wish I could catch every single act at the festival, but here in this blog post, I have whittled it down to a [somewhat] realistic itinerary of what I plan to see. My plan is anchored by the fact that I am performing at the festival twice – Friday night with The Beast and Saturday night with Shana Tucker. I made a decision to avoid seeing most of my Triangle-based peers (I can, and will, support them other times) in favor of the out-of-town artists. For reference, here is the schedule page for the festival line-up.

Friday

My morning marathon rehearsal with The Beast and fresh-off-the-plane Shana Tucker will be cut off by the fact that Pete and Steve have to go set up for the 4pm kickoff concert – Peter Lamb and the Wolves. In my mind, PL&TW are the Triangle’s jazz ambassadors to non-jazz people through their longtime residencies at Humble Pie and C Grace. After getting a bite to eat and soundchecking at The Pinhook, I’ll hop over to Motorco to catch Raleigh-bred, Oberlin-trained, New York-refined guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and his band. His concept is super-out-there, but so very very deliberate – bring your big ears and get lost in the groove. Then back to Pinhook where bassist Gizmo is playing a set before The Beast goes on – I first met him at the LEAF festival last October where he was playing with Zap Mama and am curious to hear what his own music is like.

As soon as The Beast is done, all of us will probably throw our equipment in a pile and get over to the Hayti as fast as we can to catch the end of alt-soul vocalist Bilal’s set. His drummer is Steve McKie, who is producing The Beast’s latest album. If if if, I have any energy, I’ll try to get back to Motorco for Thundercat’s late set. Otherwise, I’ll feel like I’ve earned a single-malt scotch and a jam session.

Saturday

Sleeping in (obv.). The afternoon features two free concert tracks – one jazz-based, one hip hop-based. I’ll certainly be on the American Tobacco campus by 3:30pm for the Revive Big Band. Revive da Live / Revive Music Group is a New York-based jazz advocacy group that I suspect was one of the models for The Art of Cool Project. The Revive Big Band is also one of the inspirations for my own The Beast + Big Band. You know me, I’m addicted to large ensembles. So, I have to see what’s up there. I also want to check out Inflowential who I don’t believe have been together for a few years. I miss the days when the Kooley High crew lived in Raleigh, because their emcees were half of what made Inflowential a refreshing act on the hip hop scene. The other half is that there is no DJ or rhythm section, rather a beatboxer, bassist, and guitarist.

Headed into the evening, I can’t wait to see King at the Hayti. This West Coast group of three female vocalists/instrumentalists/producers got so much buzz off of a 3-song EP (including from Prince!). Who knows what the live show will be like or when they’ll be in NC again. Now, as much as I love Foreign Exchange and as easy as it would be to stay put at the Hayti for their set, I’ve got to get over to the Carolina Theater see what is probably the headlining/premiere concert of this festival, the special Carolina Soul Tribute arranged by/led by violist/composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. This single show hits on everything that I love about music, and many things I try to espouse in my own career – cross-genre collaboration, large ensembles (with strings and flutes!), specially curated programs. And the guest list – Bilal, N’Dambi, Gerald Clayton, Marcus Strickland, Nnenna Freelon? Damn.

I’ll have to duck out of the soul tribute early to go play with Shana Tucker (not that that’s a bad thing). She and I are musical BFFs. I’m making it Twitter official. Duet album coming..eventually/soon. After packing up, I’ll walk up the street to Pinhook to catch Kneebody.

This was a tough blog post to write – I want to be in three places at once for the whole festival. I believe in every single artist that will be gracing the stage. I’ll be Instagramming and Tweeting as much as I can without losing focus from what’s most important – being present to the music, and letting the music open you up.

See you at the festival!

Inside The Score: Beast + Big Band edition

February 1, 2014 by Eric | 0 comments

Though I did not blog about it when it happened, one of my favorite artistic achievements of 2013 was the release of The Beast + Big Band’s debut EP, Gardens. We titled the album Gardens for two reasons: 1) we initially assembled this thirteen-member hip hop ensemble for a Duke Gardens summer concert 2) from the success and synergy of that show grew a desire to cultivate the group, arrange more of our songs for big band, perform with the group more often, and even bring it into the recording studio.

For a hybrid pianist/keyboardist/composer/arranger, this recording project was a dream come true. I got to bring my talented, musical friends into a recording studio for a weekend, eschew the conveniences of digital editing and overdubbing, and record lush, orchestral hip hop music all together, completely live.

With each additional show the Big Band played last year, it felt less and less like a quartet with nine other musicians feverishly executing their written parts, and more and more like a unified group in its own rite. We all had so much fun on stage, and I hope it was palpable and magical for the audience.

Now that Gardens has been released for a few months, I wanted to offer everyone the chance to get inside the band. The beauty of the internet is that you have direct, Twitter access to some of the world’s foremost artists, and countless videos on YouTube. I’m inspired by one of my favorite contemporary big band composers, Darcy James Argue, who makes full scores of his works available on his website, completely free. You can pay him for the individual parts if you want your ensemble to perform his works, but he has no qualms about you studying his scores. Open source artistry, y’all. I think it is a great move to help a future generation of jazzers be able to learn from the best.

In that spirit, I’d like to offer up the full score to the third track from Gardens, “Cost of Living.” Between Pierce’s lyrical concept, and the song’s balance of tightly calculated harmonies and open, collective improvisation, I think this one track is our manifesto for the whole Big Band project, putting forth what we think a big band can be for hip hop music (more than just catchy horn lines behind a spoken hook).

Here is the audio on SoundCloud…

…and here is the score. Follow along! Enjoy the 7-flat key signature and three-bar phrases of the refrain. I also transcribed all of Pierce’s lyrics. Notated rap? Why not?

Download (PDF, 341KB)

 

Orphalese

October 3, 2013 by Eric | 3 Comments

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the best decision of my life so far – to embark on the sacred journey of marriage with Lauren Ann Schlenger Hirsh. Early  in our courtship, Lauren gifted me a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s 1923 classic, The Prophet. Part of her inscription to me reads “Few books have touched me so deeply as The Prophet. The very act of reading Gibran’s words is like uttering a prayer. It has been the same way with loving you.” We carried this idea of poetry-as-prayer forward a few years, when preparing for our wedding ceremony. Though Lauren is not a musician by training, she has the soul of one (and is certainly a gifted artist in other media). We thought it would be both fun and meaningful to compose a song together for the ceremony, and it became obvious rather quickly that we should set some of our favorite parts of The Prophet to music (specifically, excerpts from “On Love” and “On Marriage”).

So many aspects of our lives were woven together in this collaboration. To this day I maintain that we truly did co-compose as equals, with me suggesting ideas for the rhythmic and melodic trajectories of text at the piano, and Lauren giving lots of feedback on those choices. We wrote the song for three (count ‘em, three!) sopranos, as both of my sisters, Rachel and Rebekah, are lovely singers, as well as my college BFF, Catherine Jones. Another college friend, Yuri Broze, played piano at the ceremony, while Lauren and I stood watching, teary eyed, in front of my parents’ farmhouse in rural Chapel Hill on a beautiful fall day in October of 2009. A few months later, I brought Rachel, Rebekah, and Catherine into the profoundly magical acoustic space of Zenph founder John Q Walker’s recital hall to make a recording of this composition for posterity. But I have been sitting on the raw tracks for years, never finding time to mix and master the performance.

So, Lauren, today I gift you with the completion and publication of our first, but definitely not last, song together. We titled it “Orphalese,” for the city from which the prophet delivers parting words of wisdom to his community.

Here is the audio:

And for all you music-types out there, here is the score, should you want to study it or even perform it. On a professional note, I think this is some of my better arranging and engraving for classical piano. So far at least. I am ever a student of the craft.

Download (PDF, 195KB)

Love you, babe! Happy anniversary!

So Many September Shows!

September 9, 2013 by Eric | 0 comments

I am so excited for this particular month. It is chock full of great performances, and I get to play in no less than five configurations, from solo jazz piano, to singer-songwriter, to orchestral hip hop ensemble. Highlights include The Beast + Big Band opening for the great Nnenna Freelon, and a short tour with sister-from-another-mister Shana Tucker.

Here are all of the shows, grouped by artist and then date. Hope to see you at one of these!

Eric Hirsh  

Date City Venue
09/13/13 Eric Hirsh in Durham The Carrack
Time: 6:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 111 West Parrish Street.
Solo jazz piano set at a gallery opening for Gabe Eng-Goetz.
09/26/13 Eric Hirsh in Durham Durham Centre Plaza
Time: 7:00pm. Admission: Free. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 300 W. Morgan Street.
Eric Hirsh Quartet at The BIG, a potentially-record-breaking community networking rooftop party.

The Beast  

Date City Venue
09/06/13 The Beast in Raleigh North Carolina Museum of Art
Time: 5:30pm. Admission: Free. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Come for The Beast, stay for the wine and tapas.
09/14/13 The Beast in Raleigh Duke Energy Center
Time: 8:00pm. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 2 East South Street.
The Beast + Big Band opens for Nnenna Freelon

Orquesta GarDel  

Date City Venue
09/21/13 Orquesta GarDel in Raleigh Latin Quarters
Time: 10:00pm. Admission: $15. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 7335 Six Forks Rd.
Mojito Night
09/28/13 Orquesta GarDel in Durham Rock Quarry Park
Time: 12:00pm. Admission: Free. Age restrictions: All Ages.

Shana Tucker  

Date City Venue
09/15/13 Shana Tucker in Wilmington Thalian Hall
Time: 7:00pm. Admission: $14/$22/$28. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 310 Chestnut St.
09/27/13 Shana Tucker in Greensboro Greensboro College
Time: 7:30pm. Admission: $10. Age restrictions: All Ages.
09/28/13 Shana Tucker in Roxboro Kirby Cultural Arts Complex
Time: 7:30pm. Admission: $8-$20. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 213 North Main Street.

Emily Musolino  

Date City Venue
09/21/13 Emily Musolino in Durham CenterFest Arts Festival
Time: 1:00pm. Admission: Free. Age restrictions: All Ages. Address: 120 Morris St.
First time backing this awesome soul/r&b singer songwriter. At The Herald Sun Stage.

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Transcription: “Face Plant” by Blanko Basnet

August 9, 2013 by Eric | 0 comments

As we here in the Durham music community continue to grow up as artists and humans, we also move through different projects to accommodate our changing visions. Pierce is putting a lot of time into the Beatmaking Lab in addition to The Beast. Phil Cook has His Feat in addition to Megafaun. Hammer No More The Fingers‘ Duncan Webster is working on Prypyat and now guitarist Joe Hall just this week released the eponymous debut album for his new band, Blanko Basnet.

I was working through the CD on progressive commutes to and from work. This morning, a short instrumental, “Face Plant,” came on, and it immediately resonated with me (my compositional aesthetic? something deeper?). Take a listen: 

a) It’s in 7/8 which for some reason has become my go-to meter of late; it feels so natural now. b) I could hear how the riffs must lay nicely on a fretboard, but I am not a guitarist and I needed to “see” the notes become phrases on a grand staff. So, after work, I came home and transcribed and engraved the song and, with Joe’s permission, have published the results here to share with you. Instead of embedding a PDF, I tried using Noteflight, a cloud-based notation program that doesn’t require any additional plugins beyond Flash to display and playback music. You can add comments, change key, tempo, etc. Check it out below, and click the icon in the lower-right corner to expand to a full page printout. I used some annotations to do a little bit of theoretical analysis on how the main riffs of the song are constructed. Bach would be proud: the opening eight notes are very efficiently reused and expanded upon.

Digging your new stuff, Joe! Keep up the great work!

Towards a Tipping Point – 2012 Jazz Releases from the Triangle

January 13, 2013 by Eric | 6 Comments

I was listening to the radio (WKNC’s Post Rock Block to be precise) on my drive home from Raleigh to Durham this evening, excited for the upcoming recording session for The Beast + Big Band, and thinking about how both Peter Lamb and the Wolves and The Mint Julep Jazz Band are both working on Kickstarter-funded albums. I wondered just how prolific my jazz colleagues were in 2012 as measured by commercially released recordings. We don’t yet have enough newsworthy happenings to warrant a journalist to champion consistently the scene or to put together a year-end list. Inspired by the Independent Weekly’s annual appraisal, I couldn’t rest until I determined how many local jazz albums came out in 2012 for myself.

Without further ado, here are the 12 jazz and jazz-related albums Triangle musicians released in 2012, organized approximately by release date. If I’ve missed an album, please let me know and I’ll update the post.

Jim Ketch, A Distant View (Summit Records)

Jim Ketch, A Distant View

Buy on Amazon

Kate McGarry, Girl Talk (Palmetto Records)

Kate McGarry, GirlTalk

Buy on Amazon

Ecco La Musica, Morning Moon (Big Round Records)

Ecco La Musica, Morning Moon

Buy on Amazon

John Brown, Quiet Time (Brown Boulevard Records)

 Buy on CDBaby

Doug Largent Trio, Right In The Pocket (self-released)

Doug Largent, Right In The Pocket

Buy from artist website

Branford Marsalis, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music)

Branford Marsalis, Four MFs Playin Tunes

Buy on Amazon

Keith Ganz & Kate McGarry, Smile (Edition Longplay)

Keith Ganz Kate McGarry, Smile

Buy from German vinyl store

Jo Gore and The Alternative, The Herstory (self-released)

Jo Gore, TheHerstoryjpg

Buy from artist website

The MPS Project, Goes Without Saying (self-released)

The MPS Project, Goes Without Saying

Buy on CDBaby

Ira Wiggins, When Freedom Swings (IWiggs Music)

Ira Wiggins

I can’t find an album cover. But here is a press release. I’m pretty certain it has been released – it shows up on jazz radio charts here and there.

Yolanda Rabun, Christmastime (Yodyful Music)

Yolanda Rabun, Christmastime

Buy on CDBaby

Nnenna Freelon & John Brown Big Band, Christmas (Brown Boulevard Records)

Nnenna Freelon, Christmas album cover

This CD marks my first credit as a big band arranger. I arranged Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmastime Is Here” as a 3/4 Latin songo. A far cry from the original melancholy ballad.

Buy on CDBaby

I think the Triangle made a fine showing in 2012 in that this list reveals a good diversity of styles. Not only will you find straight-ahead jazz, but also some contemporary/progressive, some blues, some neo-soul, even some world influences.

Coming next week: the year ahead – what to expect from the Triangle jazz scene in 2013. I’m going to make a lot of calls and tweets to my artist friends and determine as many albums slated for release that they’re willing to tell me about. I already know that Stephen Anderson, Kim Arrington, Peter Lamb, and Scott Sawyer are on that list. More details to come!

Also, I recently made a list of Triangle jazz musicians on Twitter. Please let me know if I should add someone to the list!

Community Chorus Project endorsed by R.E.M.

August 18, 2011 by Eric | 0 comments

This summer I was commissioned with Shana Tucker to co-arrange two pop songs for high school chorus and band.  The end result after two weeks of rehearsal at a summer camp would be a fully produced recording session and music video.  The first video, a cover of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” dropped this week, and is quickly picking up views from around the world.  Check it out, please share it with your friends, and then read the backstory after the jump!


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