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‘Big Band Rocks’ kicks off
Is it jazz? Is it rock? Can music by rockers like Oasis, Van Halen and Radiohead be played by jazz big bands? Find out at “Big Band Rocks,” the Purdue Homecoming concert by the Purdue Jazz Band and Concert Jazz Band.
The free concert is set for 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, in Loeb Playhouse of the Purdue Stewart Center.
Jazz and rock are two of the most widely celebrated musical genres of all time. And even though they share similar roots - rock started in the 1960s as a fusion of elements from jazz, classical music, country and rhythm and blues - both types of music have branched out very differently over the years.
“Big Band Rocks” demonstrates some of the ways the two genres still intertwine, says M.T. “Mo Trout, director of Purdue’s jazz program.
“This is a totally different program for us,” he says. “I’ve been looking for something different that would expand the audience drawn to concerts and let them know you can do anything with jazz.”
Since its inception in the early 20th century, the tradition of jazz has been to take the popular music of the day and play it as jazz. “But in recent memory that’s not been as much the case,” Trout says. Just in the last few years, jazz artists and arrangers “have gotten into current popular music as they did in the past and that’s been kind of intriguing to me,” Trout says.
Paul Anka, who first became popular as a teen idol in the 1950s-60s, is one of those bringing rock and jazz together. In 2005 he released “Rock Swings,” a recording of swing jazz covers of popular rock and pop songs from the 1980s and 1990s. From that recording, the Purdue Jazz Band will perform Van Halen’s “Jump,” Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello” and Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” all rearranged for jazz band in swing style.
Audiences will also hear two tunes by Radiohead, “Kid A” and “Bodysnatchers.” Founded in Oxfordshire, England in 1985, Radiohead’s brand of alternative and experimental rock has propelled them to international fame. “Kid A,” written in 2000, marked an evolution in Radiohead’s musical style, as the group incorporated experimental electronic music and jazz influences.
“They say they’re heavily influenced by jazz although it’s not apparent at first. But when you dig into the music you see sophisticated harmonies and melodic material common to jazz.
It’s like jazz you’ve never heard before, exciting and interesting,” says Trout.
From Phil Collins, who became a rock superstar with Genesis in the 1980s and 90s, there’s “Sussudio.” In the 1990s Collins turned to leading a jazz big band and performed “Sussudio” at the highly respected Montreux Jazz Festival.
In the 1970s and 80s, one of the most successful bands to fuse jazz with rock and electronics was the Brecker Brothers and Michael Brecker’s “Delta City Blues” is on the program. It will feature Purdue’s lead tenor saxophonist Jake Nopartstak. Purdue trumpet player Johnny Greene created an arrangement of Ben Folds’ “Steven’s Last Night in Town” that will also be on the program.
Opening the concert, the Concert Jazz Band will tie into the evening’s theme in a more subtle way. The show opens with a jazz shuffle by Herbie Hancock called “Driftin’.” Among other tunes on their set is a pop hit by Michael Buble, “Haven’t Met You Yet” and “The Preacher” by Horace Sliver which integrates rock ideas into jazz. Norah Jones’ Grammy-winning “Don’t Know Why” is a rock tune with a freedom in its vocal phrasing that gives it a jazz feel.
Looking at the whole concert, the audience “will hear a whole gamet of styles from jazz swing to New Orleans funk to heavy rock to ‘Steven’s Last Night in Town’ which has a real ragtime feel,” Trout says.The concert is sponsored by Purdue Bands & Orchestras which offers a variety of free jazz, concert band and orchestra programs.
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