November 30, 2011

Big band jazz, original compositions featured in Dec. 7 concert

News and Information

A concert Dec. 7 by the Studio Jazz Ensemble and the Modern Band will bring together traditional approaches to big band jazz with a new work composed by UW students.

The concert will be at 7:30 pm in the Meany Studio. Admission is $15 and $10 for students and seniors.

Fred Radke performs at a benefit.

Fred Radke performs at a benefit.

The Studio Jazz Ensemble is led by the newest faculty member in Jazz Studies, Fred Radke. Radke, a fixture on the Seattle jazz scene, has been playing professionally since he was 15 years old. His early years were strongly influenced by trumpeter Harry James. He became lead trumpeter with the James orchestra and toured with his mentor for a number of years. He has played throughout the region, in Canada, and across the country with some of the biggest names in jazz for over 40 years. Radke now leads the James orchestra, which continues to perform throughout the U.S.  He also teaches at North Seattle Community College as a resident instructor. His wife, Gina Fuenes, a renowned jazz singer, also has joined the School of Music faculty and teaches voice students.

Radke, a recognized authority on big band history, has been impressed by the high quality of the UWs student musicians. “Its like playing with the Yankees in the World Series,” he says. “They are very devoted, focused, and open to suggestions, and they are able to absorb huge amounts of information. I think its important for them to know some of the history of big bands, to have some background on the music they are playing. It puts you in a different place for playing. Then its easier to understand what is expected of the musicians.”

Radke draws on his extensive library of arrangements, adding variety and challenges to the material the students will play. Next weeks concert will feature selections by Buddy Rich, Count Basie, Frank Foster, Harry James, Gordon Goodwin, Rob McConnell and others.

The Modern Band, directed by Cuong Vu, performs a new work titled, “Red Riding Hood,” a set of original, interrelated compositions by the music students. Each member of the band contributed a song to the work, which also includes the spoken word.

The idea of doing a “musical/voice collage” came up in a discussion at the beginning of the quarter, says band member Levi Gillis. “The idea of a continuous narrative guiding the music was an interesting concept for us, and after brainstorming, we settled on the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood as the basis for music.

“Our take on the story, however, centers mainly on the wolf’s point of view. We had a lot of fun inventing his inner conflicts and back story. Many of us in the group also love some of the new indie/pop/folk/rock music that has been coming out recently (Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear etc.), so we decided to write music in that genre or at least somehow related to that style of music. It was an interesting process trying to synthesize both our jazz/classical/modern influences with the indie/pop/folk/rock influences.”