Gathering together some of the best jazz talents in the country, the SFJAZZ Collective meets every year for a two-month residency during which the group’s members rehearse their own compositions as well as those by noted masters. Each year, they get together to practice for their performance at the SFJAZZ Spring Season and the national tour that follows. In the episode “American Music,” Spark visits the ensemble, hard at work as it prepares six compositions by John Coltrane, arranged by Grammy Award-winner Gil Goldstein.

The 2005 octet, assembled by SFJAZZ executive director Randall Kline and artistic director Joshua Redman, is composed of accomplished musicians from around the country, including trumpeter Nicholas Payton, alto saxophonist and flutist Miguel Zenon, pianist Renee Rosnes, Isaac Smith on trombone, bassist Matt Penman, drummer Eric Harland, and Redman himself on tenor sax. But the group’s highlight is vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, a veteran player who has recorded with veritable legends of modern jazz, including Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard and Herbie Hancock.

Even for such accomplished talents, performing Goldstein’s new arrangements of six Coltrane classics can be overwhelming. The work of Coltrane, who is commonly considered to be the most important jazz composer and performer of the modern era, rarely gets reinterpreted by young musicians. His mature style, characterized by hypnotic, soulful melodies deftly interwoven with bursts of dissonant wailing from his tenor sax, presents the interpreter with a challenge that is exceedingly difficult to meet. On the one hand, to merely copy Coltrane’s sound is to ignore the spirit of individual expression that is central to his work; on the other, a voice as personal and penetrating as Coltrane’s may not be found even in a lifetime of practice and introspection.

Founded in 1983 under the name of Jazz in the City, SFJAZZ is the leading nonprofit jazz organization on the West Coast and the sixth-largest performing arts organization in the Bay Area. Dedicated to encouraging the growth of jazz and jazz audiences in San Francisco and beyond, SFJAZZ presents a wealth of year-round programs, including the internationally acclaimed San Francisco Jazz Festival, the SFJAZZ Spring Season program, and numerous community outreach and educational programs.

SFJAZZ Collective 13 April,2005Spark
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American Music

Lend an ear to original American jazz and blues as it is created in the Bay Area.


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