San Francisco Performances opens its season in a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the premiere of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale). The ensemble, a septet of instrumentalists and narrator, include several players who are best known in the jazz world. Trumpeter Sean Jones and violinist Regina Carter are right at home with Stravinsky’s syncopations.
There’s more information at the San Francisco Performances website.
The story (narrated by tenor Nicholas Phan) tells of the Soldier who makes a deal with the Devil, trading his violin for a valuable book that can predict the future. “It kind of reminds me of… my upbringing a little bit,” Sean Jones says, “Because I grew up in a Pentacostal church, and I remember them telling me ‘You know, if you play that jazz music, you’re going to go to hell!’ So in a weird way, I kind of think about that, like maybe hell is where I’m supposed to be, and it’s not such a bad place.” Jones has played the piece several times before. “Ironically, it gets more difficult each time I play it, in that you find something new inside of it. Something you didn’t hear before, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow. This kind of goes with that.’ And that’s the mark of a great piece of music. You never… you never learn it. It just evolves as you evolve.” Regina Carter studied it for the first time when she was asked to take part in this performance. “I took a listen to it again and I thought, ‘oh, this’ll be fun,’ you know, and considering it was going to be Sean Jones, and [trombonist] Robin Eubanks, a half-classical, half-jazz crew, and listening to it… And then when I got the music, it was like, ‘Oh my god!’ You know, all the different time signatures and everything kind of freaked me out. So I basically found several recordings and listened to it and learned it…. One of the movements where I start on the downbeat, but because of how it’s written, when we start to play it it feels like I’m actually on the upbeat. So that you kind of have to pay attention to. It’s a game, in a way, you know, I just feel like it is a little bit of a dance with the devil.”