Since 2009 I’ve been a member of the 21st Century Band, co-founded by Ron Blake and Dion Parson. In February Dion’s United Jazz Foundation contracted the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to play at the Reichold Center for the Performing Arts in St. Thomas as part of their Caribbean/South American Tour and to cap off a 10-day run of concerts and workshops by Ron Blake, myself, Dion, pianist Carlton Holmes, harpist/vocalist Riza Printup, and two very talented college students with whom we’ve been working since they were in high school in St. Thomas (Tabari Lake and Jonte Samuel).
On this concert, I had the unique honor of sitting in with one of the world’s greatest jazz orchestras. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is the finest “Big Band” in the world. Many professional large ensembles (Maria Schnieder Orch, WDR Big Band, Airmen of Note, et al) are made up of incredible players, but JALC raises the bar – not only is everyone in the orchestra a superb read AND virtuoso soloist, they ALL contribute compositions and arrangements, and they all have a profound understanding of the Tradition of this music.
Wynton Marsalis recently remarked “I always like to play very contemporary concepts of swing right next to New Orleans music, because it highlights continuum. We bring the ancestors with us.” And I think that perfectly sums up the magic of this group – its a multi-generational conglomerate of the greatest artists on the planet that participate in a musical democracy with such a deep understanding of both Tradition and Modernism that they can float seamlessly back and forth between both.
Here is a highlight reel from the concert thanks to United Jazz Foundation. My fun begins at 7:00…