Purdue jazz concert gets inspiration from Irving Berlin

October 9, 2012  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Irving Berlin, the man who fueled many a Broadway musical and Hollywood blockbuster, attracts the interest of resourceful jazz musicians. Purdue's American Music Repertory Ensemble and the Lab Jazz Band explore that connection to open the 2012-13 jazz season on Friday (Oct. 12).

"Irving Berlin: Dean of American Popular Song" is part of Purdue's Homecoming celebration. The free concert, sponsored by Purdue Bands & Orchestras, is set for 8 p.m. in Stewart Center's Loeb Playhouse on campus. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

"Berlin invented the pop song as we know it today," says M.T. "Mo" Trout, who directs both bands.

Trout is fond of a description of Berlin by another popular composer, Jerome Kern: "Where does Irving Berlin fit in musical history? There is no place for him in American music. He IS American music."

"When Berlin died at the age of 101 in 1989, he had composed more hit songs that any other composer," Trout says. On top of that, he was a publisher and theater owner.

Berlin's tunes are such strong songs on their own that it's a challenge for musicians to reset them in a jazz idiom, Trout says. The American Music Repertory Ensemble's portion of the concert opens with Berlin's first big hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band." From 1911 to 1959, that tune had a dozen hit versions from early ones by Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong to Bing Crosby in 1938 and Ray Charles in 1959.

Tunes that Ella Fitzgerald put her stamp on, such as "Let's Face the Music and Dance" and "Top Hat, White Tie & Tails," are on the program, along with "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. "They're really good, really fun arrangements," Trout says.

"Come Fly with Me" features the AMRE Singers, while a women's trio singing in The Andrews Sisters' style tackles "Shoo Shoo Baby." Tenor saxophonist Jason Kohl from Beevercreek, Ohio, gets the spotlight in "In a Sentimental Mood."

The Lab Band tackles the job of getting the audience "in the mood" for the entire evening with songs like "Makin' Whoopee," "The Wiggle Walk" and "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter."

The evening ends with American Music Repertory Ensemble playing spirited instrumental versions of two Berlin classics back-to-back - "God Bless America" and "Blue Skies."

Purdue's next jazz concert will be Oct. 19 when the Purdue Jazz Band offers "Billy Strayhorn: The Duke's Right-Hand Man" at 8 p.m. in Loeb Playhouse. The band will release its newest CD that night, and there will be live music in the Stewart Center lobby prior to the event to promote sales.

Contact: Kathy Matter, 765-496-6587, kcmatter@purdue.edu

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