Hamp’s Gala: The First Night

Tuesday evening’s opening event of the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival was in the University of Idaho Auditorium, a hall intriguing for its neo-Gothic architecture and superb acoustics. Called Hamp’s Gala, the concert presented students of the Lionel Hampton School of Music. The first half was classical, the second jazz.
Following the university orchestra playing the final two movements of Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 came five recital pieces. They included virtuoso trombone playing by Jenny Kellogg in Ferdinand David’s “Concertino” and ended with Josiah Stocker’s peformance of “Four Pieces For Piano” by the contemporary American composer Frederic Rzewski. I must confess to having known nothing of Rzewski, but after hearing Stocker’s presentation of this work with its riveting rhythms, insistent repetitions and complex interior harmonies, I am going to seek out more of the composer’s music.Rzewski.jpgThe intensity, rapid tempos and open structure of the Rzewski work make demands on the pianist’s technique and on his ability to maintain focus on the music through the blizzard of notes. Young Mr. Stocker brought it off impressively. There is on You Tube a video clip of Rzewski himself playing an excerpt from “Four Pieces,” but – fair warning – the audio qualilty is lousy and the clip cuts off abruptly before he gets to the harmonic density of the middle section. Don’t judge the piece by that clip. The web site samples of this recording of “Four Pieces” seem to be more representative. Among the few things I’ve learned about Rzewski today in hasty research is that his name is pronounced zheff-skee.
Following intermission, Daniel Bukvich of the Hampton School faculty directed the Jazz Choir I in an overture and two pieces of his composing. The overture was a wild thing that opened with a percussion ensemble onstage, then the 175 men and women of the choir swarming down the aisles through the audience and onto the stage, singing, clapping and grooving as they went. The jubilation continued through “Inferno,” which Bukvich set to text from Dante, and his own “Song of the River.” Then Vern Sielert led a big band that played three pieces highlighted by an expansion of Jelly Roll Morton’s 1926 “Black Bottom Stomp,” a period piece that is timeless. Jenny Kellogg, who flawlessly played the classical piece in the first half, had what Sielert described as “the world’s shortest trombone solo” (two bars); from Ferdinand David to Ferdinand Joseph Lamenthe in one concert. Sielert’s Jazz Band I also delivered stirring performances of the tricky “Linebacker” by Fred Sturm and Dick Grove’s “You Rotten Kid,” a flagwaver from the Buddy Rich book. The festival was off to a spirited start.
Further reports are coming. Stay tuned.

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  1. Seregio Karam says

    Frederic Rzewski formed the MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva) group, with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum, in Rome (early 60’s). That’s where the late great (and wonderful) Steve Lacy met him. That’s just a bit of info, I’ve never really listened to Rzewski music, although I’m a big fan of Lacy’s.