Performances mark first time Harrell has worked with ballet dancers
The sound of Tom Harrell will be heard in an unexpected place, New York Live Arts, November 3-7, when the master trumpet player and his quintet make their first foray into dance by accompanying the world premiere of Michele Wiles’s “Apogee in 3” by the ever-adventurous BalletNext. For BalletNext Artistic Director Michele Wiles working with Harrell marks her first use of jazz.
When Wiles, a former principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, first heard Harrell play at the Village Vanguard last year, she immediately decided she wanted to work with him. Together they chose three pieces of Harrell’s music whose rhythms are appropriate for dance.
The first section of music, “Baroque Steps,” combines baroque and jazz, both of which allow for improvisation on the part of the musicians. Originally written for five strings, trumpet, tenor sax, bass and drums for its 2001 RCA recording, Harrell is adapting the music to trumpet, tenor sax, piano, bass and drums for the BalletNext performances. Offering a sense of travel, “Journey to the Stars,” recorded for HighNote Records in 2012, suggests country and pop music of the 1960’s, while “Trances,” African in mood, is divided into different sections, moving from out of tempo, in-tempo and then out of tempo again. “Trances,” which was recorded at the end of August 2015 as part of a new album entitled Something Gold, Something Blue, uses two trumpets, guitar, bass and drums.
“Apogee in 3” unites two fundamentally different arts without altering the form of each. Wiles’s choreographic response to the challenge of using jazz and its inherent dependence on improvisation was to create an airtight choreographic structure that would allow the dancers, who are typically trained through repetition, to both dance parallel to the music and also have the freedom to respond spontaneously to the moments of music improvisation.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Praised by Newsweek for his pure melodic genius, Tom Harrell is widely recognized as one of the most creative and dynamic jazz instrumentalists and composers of our time. While Harrell is a master of the jazz idiom, he constantly seeks new challenges and influences. Even with a discography of over 260 recordings and a career that spans more than four decades, Harrell has managed to stay fresh and current as he continues to actively record and tour around the world. He is a frequent winner in Down Beat and Jazz Times magazines’ Critics and Readers Polls and a Grammy nominee.
His warm, burnished sound on the trumpet and the flugelhorn, and the unparalleled harmonic and rhythmic sophistication in his playing and writing, have earned Harrell his place as a jazz icon to aspiring musicians and devoted fans alike. His music is at once intelligent, soulful, fresh and accessible. No matter the size of the group he works with, the trumpeter-composer deftly weaves complex harmonies together with daring rhythmic concepts and unforgettable melodies while utilizing the available colors to full effect.
His forthcoming album, First Impressions (September 18, 2015 release), is a chamber ensemble recording of Harrell’s own arrangements of (mostly) chansons by Debussy and Ravel. The ensemble was featured on PBS’ Soundtracks and toured in the US and Poland. Harrell will reprise the group for a week at the Village Vanguard starting October 6.
A graduate of Stanford University with a degree in music composition, Harrell is a prolific composer and arranger. Carlos Santana, Cold Blood, Azteca, Vince Guaraldi, Hank Jones, Kenny Barron, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Danish Radio Big Band, WDR Big Band, Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra and Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra are among the many who have recorded or performed his work. Harrell’s composition and arrangement, “Humility,” was recorded for the latter’s 2008 release, which just won a Grammy for the Best Latin Jazz Album.
Some of Harrell’s notable RCA/BMG recordings include Wise Children, a project in which he combines woodwinds, brass, horns, strings, guitars, percussion and the vocals of Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Jane Monheit and Claudia Acuna; Paradise and The Art of Rhythm both of which feature chamber groups with strings; and his Grammy-nominated big band album, Time’s Mirror.
Harrell has worked with important figures in jazz history including Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Dizzie Gillespie, Horace Silver, Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Sam Jones (with whom he co-led a big band in the 70s), Jim Hall, Charlie Haden, and Joe Lovano. Harrell was featured on Grammy-winning albums by Gerry Mulligan (Walk on the Water) and Bill Evans (We Will Meet Again).
In 2014, he toured internationally with his sextet, Colors of a Dream, featuring Esperanza Spalding on bass and vocals. The group’s eponymous album was released in 2013 by HighNote Records.
Michele Wiles founded BalletNext in 2011 in an effort to pair classically trained dancers and live musicians in a collaborative setting that encourages artistic risk and experimentation.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, at age 10 she moved to Washington D.C. to train at the Kirov Academy on full scholarship. She was a Gold Medal winner at the 18th International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria; a Bronze Medal winner in Nagoya, Japan and a finalist at the Paris International Dance Competition. She was a Princess Grace Foundation – U.S.A. Dance Fellowship recipient for 1999–2000 and won the Erik Bruhn Prize in 2002.
She joined American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company in 1997 and joined American Ballet Theatre in 1998, where she was promoted to soloist in 2000 and to principal in 2005. She left ABT in 2011 to found BalletNext, where she remains artistic director as well as a dancer and choreographer. “Ushuaia,” to music by Heinrich Biber, which premiered in February 2015, marks her formal choreographic debut.
The performances of “Apogee in 3,” November 3-7, 2015, are part of BalletNext’s two week engagement at New York Live Arts, October 27-November 7. The program with “Apogee in 3” also includes Brian Reeder’s “Surmisable Units” set to “Piano Phase” by Steve Reich, which will also be played live.
TIMES AND DATES
November 3-7, Tuesday-Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 2pm & 7:30pm
“Surmisable Units” (Reeder/Reich), “Apogee in 3” (Wiles/Harrell)
Tickets begin at $15 and are available at BalletNext.com or by calling the New York Live Arts box office at 212-924-0077. New York Live Arts is located at 219 West 19th Street.
BalletNext would like to acknowledge the following organizations for their partnership and support in the development of this program: Capezio, the official pointe shoe sponsor of the company, the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, Steinway & Sons, and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.
BalletNext’s engagement at New York Live Arts is made possible, in part, by funds from The Howard Gilman Foundation and The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.