It's 'Ladies Night' on Friday (March 26) at Purdue's Super Jazz Jam
Mary Lou Williams
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - It's long been said that behind every good man is a good woman, and that's certainly true in jazz, a musical form long dominated by men. To prove it, Purdue Bands' Super Jazz Jam will hold a "Ladies Night" on Friday (March 26) to honor the significant contributions women have made to jazz.
The free concert, set for 8 p.m. in Stewart Center's Loeb Playhouse, taps into the spirit of Women's History Month. Four bands will be featured -- the Purdue Jazz Band, American Music Repertory Ensemble, Lab Jazz Band and Concert Jazz Band.
"Don't expect frilly jazz. Do expect music covering the whole spectrum of jazz, music that's very tuneful," says M.T. "Mo" Trout, who directs the bands. "They're just all great jazz compositions and would be no matter who wrote them."
The American Music Repertory Ensemble will perform several tunes by Mary Lou Williams, a woman behind many male jazz musicians from Benny Goodman to Thelonious Monk. The first pivotal woman in jazz, Williams fought for a place in the jazz scene in the 1930s, landing a job as soloist and arranger for Andy Kirk's "Twelve Clouds of Joy," a leading southwest territory swing band. Besides dealing with a musical genre in which women were rare, she also faced all the obstacles confronting African-Americans in that pre-civil rights era.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of her birth in 2010, big band arrangements of Williams' tunes have just been made available, and Purdue audiences will be among the first to hear classics like "Roll 'em," a Williams' original that Benny Goodman turned into a hit; "Walkin' and Swingin';" "Big Jim Blues;" and "New Musical Express," inspired by Duke Ellington's train songs.
Originally inspired by the Kansas City blues scene where she got her start, Williams was an innovator with an evolving style. Duke Ellington called her compositions "perpetually contemporary. Her music retains, and maintains, a standard of quality that is timeless. She is like soul on soul."
The Lab Band plays several compositions by Ellen Rowe, who currently heads the jazz program at the University of Michigan. Rowe has been a guest artist at the Purdue Jazz Festival.
"She's written a number of strong works that really appeal to high school and college musicians because they're not just in older styles but new styles and sounds that students are familiar with," Trout says.
The concert features Rowe originals "The Doomsday Machine Meets Mr. Gelato" and "Cross Currents."
Works of several other women are sampled, including "Son of Road Time" by Toshiko Akiyoshi, a Japanese musician; and "Just Kidding" by Eliane Elias, a Brazilian best known for her samba and bossa nova writing. She has arranged tunes for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra scheduled to perform at the 2011 Purdue Jazz Festival.
The Purdue Jazz Band will perform several tunes by Maria Schneider, whom Trout describes as "the most influential of any big band composer today.
Men influenced by the women stars of the concert will also get play time, such as Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't," and Sammy Nestico's "Queen Bee." In their set, the Purdue Jazz Band also will present "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" and "Smack Dab in the Middle," two tunes from the competition set the band performed at the Elmhurst (Chicago) Jazz Festival in February 2010, which won an "Outstanding Performance" award.
The Super Jazz Jam is sponsored by Purdue Bands & Orchestras. For a listing of all events visit www.purdue.edu/bands. The next jazz concert is "Jazz on the Hill" at 2:30 p.m. May 2 at Slayter Center.
Contact: Kathy Matter, 765-496-6785, firstname.lastname@example.org