For its season finale, ‘American Masters,’ New Century Chamber Orchestra will be joined by the acclaimed Marcus Roberts Trio, for a collaboration that blends notated and improvised playing. Daniel Hope and the NCCO have a lineup of works by Copland, Bernstein, Gershwin, and Samuel Barber, and will play four performances around the Bay Area, tonight through Sunday afternoon.
There’s more information at the New Century Chamber Orchestra website.
Marcus Roberts says Gershwin, who had one foot in jazz, and one foot in the classical music world, is an ideal meeting place for players from both traditions. And he was both a composer and improviser, like Roberts. “Any chance I get to explore more of his stuff, it’s really allowed me to find an authentic way to collaborate with classical musicians, because I know what he was after, and I have an understanding of what is possible integrating the two art forms through his music.” Then, there are the tunes themselves: “There’s a lot of joy in Gershwin’s music. It’s really fun music. And also, It deals with the roots of American culture, which is why jazz musicians, we’ve always enjoyed improvising on his melodies and themes. Because somehow they just work in jazz very easily.” The members of New Century will be playing notated arrangements, but the trio will be (during their solos) improvising. “That’s what makes jazz music special. The inspiration that the subconscious can bring into conscious knowledge is incredible and unlimited… We might have an intellectual idea of what we plan to do, but [drummer] Jason [Marsalis] might do something or [bassist] Rodney [Jordan] might do something, or something could just happen in the music that completely takes you off into a different direction spontaneously.” They played with Daniel Hope and his other group, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra at the Savannah Music Festival, and enjoyed the musical bonding across genres. “We’re just trying to find a way to tastefully integrate what we do, so that there’s not such a sense of separateness with art. I still feel like there’s too much of that. And my goal is just to introduce people to where jazz can function in any kind of music that has that openness, where we can bring it in.”