BMOP/sound, the nation’s foremost label launched by an orchestra and devoted exclusively to new music recordings, announces the release of its fourth CD Gunther Schuller: Journey Into Jazz. Representative of the “Third Stream” genre, a revolutionary style of music brought forth into the mainstream by Schuller in the 1950’s, the three pieces on this album unite the structural complexities found in contemporary classical music with the improvisational elements of jazz.
According to Schuller, “few people would’ve imagined jazz in the world of the symphony orchestra. It was time to bring improvisation, the heart and soul of jazz, into the creative equation.” Thanks to BMOP/sound’s diverse aesthetic, Journey Into Jazz offers a new sound as it weaves jazz vernacular into the symphonic world. The recording offers compelling performances by Gil Rose and his BMOP musicians, and jazz groups comprised of some of today’s top contemporary artists. With the release of this definitive compilation, Schuller’s seminal works for the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet and orchestra are made available to the public as digital recordings for the first time. As the title suggests, Variants for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra (1960) is laid out in a theme-and-variations form--the structure most common to jazz performances. Variants was commissioned by choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein for the New York City Ballet. Because Balanchine and his dancers were unaccustomed to working with improvisational methods, Schuller wrote for the Modern Jazz Quartet (vibraphone, piano, double bass, and drums) in a manner that sounds improvised. Journey Into Jazz (1962) premiered at the First International Festival in Washington, DC, with the National Symphony Orchestra. Reminiscent of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Journey Into Jazz is the story of Eddy Jackson, an aspiring young trumpet player who learns to play jazz. The composer serves as the narrator of the work, which was written by famed jazz critic and author Nat Hentoff. Concertino for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra (1959) was premiered by the Baltimore Symphony under the baton of Herbert Grossman. While the jazz ensemble improvises extended solo parts, the orchestra, whose parts are fully written out, find themselves confronted with rhythms, syncopations, articulations, and free-flowing lines that are generally characteristic of jazz.
Gunther Schuller is an American composer, conductor, jazz and classical performer, author/historian, music publisher, record producer, and creator of the jazz program at New England Conservatory. He is the winner of several major honors including the MacArthur Genius Award, DownBeat Lifetime Achievement Award, a Pulitzer Prize, two Grammy Awards, and inaugural membership in the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.
Gunther Schuller: Journey Into Jazz is one of nine BMOP/sound recordings slated for 2008: John Harbison: Ulysses (released March 1st); Michael Gandolfi: Y2K Compliant (released April 1st); Lee Hyla: Lives of the Saints (released May 1st) featuring Mary Nessinger (mezzo-soprano); Eric Sawyer: Our American Cousin (two-disc opera release) in July; Charles Fussell: Wilde featuring Sanford Sylvan (baritone) in September; Lukas Foss: The Prairie featuring The Providence Singers in October; Louis Andriessen: La Passione featuring Cristina Zavalloni (mezzo-soprano) and Monica Germino (violin) in November; and David Rakowski: Winged Contraption featuring Marilyn Nonken (piano) in December. BMOP/sound recordings are distributed by Albany Music Distributors, coupled with global online distribution. An interactive BMOP website with digital download capabilities is planned for later in 2008.