Tonight, 100 years of jazz history will be compressed into a gem of a performance at the Community Concert Hall.
“We’ll begin with the root of it all,” Jonathan Latta said in an interview last week. “The Blues.”
Latta, director of percussion studies and head of the jazz and percussion ensembles at Fort Lewis College, has a big week planned for his musicians.
It starts tonight with the Jazz Ensemble dipping into the music of Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, the Beatles and Chick Corea, among others. On Thursday, the Percussion Ensemble will spread its winged drums to perform a surprising program that includes music by Dvorák. Yes, if you haven’t heard either of these groups perform, now’s the time. Tickets are $5 for adults and $1 for students.
Tonight, after opening with “Bad Ol’ Blues,” by Mike Carubia, the jazz players will back up vocalist Charissa Chiavaralotti – “Our featured faculty soloist this year,” Latta said.
Chiavaralotti is director of choral studies at FLC. She will sing in two different styles made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, Latta said – two Gershwin standards and Ellington’s “Beginning to See the Light.”
The Jazz Ensemble will play an arrangement of the Beatles’ take on the folk ballad “Eleanor Rigby” followed by more Ellington tunes. Electronic musical textures from Radiohead and “Señor Mouse,” by Chick Corea will conclude this unusual jazz history for the night.
On Thursday evening, Latta’s Percussion Ensemble will present a program with the enigmatic title “Pulse.”
“It’s named after our opening work by Vince Wallace,” he said. “We’re celebrating rhythm in this concert. Our job is to get toes tapping with energy pouring into the audience from the stage. You’ll feel the pulse in your own body.”
A new work by FLC senior Sean Mallow will premiere on this program. “Sean has composed ‘The Journey’ for both unpitched and melodic percussion instruments,” Latta said. “It’s a snapshot of the journey college students make on the way to graduation.”
Originally called “The Crawl,” Latta said the pub reference has given way to different styles of music, and it now begins with a waltz.
“Gainsborough,” by Boston Symphony percussionist Thomas Gauger, is the centerpiece and longest work on the program.
“It has three movements,” Latta said. “It’s based on English folk tunes and is an orchestral approach for percussion ensemble.” With its modal harmonies, you’ll hear the complexity of modern percussion works that combine unpitched and melodic keyboard instruments.
After the Skyhawk Strikeforce Drumline performs what many people think of as quintessential percussion music, the full ensemble will play a work inspired by African music titled “Mbira.”
The concert will conclude with two surprises: the fourth movement of Anton Dvorák’s “The American Quartet” and a rousing South American dance work called “Ritmica.”
The Dvorák transcription from a string to marimba quartet is “very musical,” Latta said. “I wanted something traditional in the concert, and I’m a huge fan of Dvorák. We’ve studied both scores to prepare for this.”
Two parts of Amadeo Roldán’s “Ritmica” will close the concert.
“It’s big, energetic, and very complex,” Latta said. Written in the late 1920s, Roldán’s work comes out of traditional South American dances.
“It will be a great way to end the concert.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic.