Woody Witt and Joe LoCascio Duo perform Friday, September 21

In 2009, the duo of saxophonist Woody Witt and pianist Joe LoCascio released the album Seasons Ago: The Songs of Alec Wilder. In this volume of rather obscure songs by one of American music’s great composers, the duo sought to explore and offer a wider perspective on Wilder’s work resulting in “ten tracks and ten moments of exquisite melody and harmony”.

This time, the duo are at it again, tackling the music of Duke Ellington’s esteemed collaborator, Billy Strayhorn. Aside from his most popular tunes (“Take the ‘A’ Train”, “Lush Life”), Strayhorn’s repertoire consists of several lesser known wonders. To most jazz aficionados, his ballads “Chelsea Bridge”, “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” and “Isfahan” are probably the most loved. But Strayhorn’s swinging side was nothing to shrug off, as evidenced by the posthumous album …And His Mother Called Him Bill.

Last year, the LoCascio/Witt duo recorded many of these obscure Strayhorn compositions for an album in the same vein as the Wilder songs. While the album is still yet to be released, Friday evening’s concert will offer a great preview of what is to come. The two have played together for the past 20 years and their time together has enabled them to achieve, in Witt’s own words, “a strong level of musical communication. Very seldom do we rehearse for duo performances. Even the [Wilder and Strayhorn] recordings were put together with very little rehearsal time. Joe has really been the musicologist of the duo.  He transcribed all the tunes, for both projects.  Some of the Strayhorn tunes we recorded, I’ve never heard played in a small group setting.”

UPDATE: Read Chris Becker’s profile of Joe LoCascio at Culturemap

The concert takes place Friday, September 21 at 7:30pm in the Moores Opera House. Click here to purchase tickets online.

2012 spring concert takes place on Wednesday, April 18

It’s our final concert of the 2011-12 school year, so we’re taking it out with a bang. Our season closer will feature both big bands performing several new works. The concert will feature new arrangements based on the music of Radiohead (“There There”) to Tom Harrell (“Blue in One”) and the premiere reworking of an old classic (“Nature Boy”). As always, there will be something for everyone that is a fan of quality jazz music and we hope to see you there. Program and ticket information below.

Infernal Jamnation, Jeff Lopez
Nick Madden, baritone saxophone
Brett Bousley, guitar
Thanushka Lewkebandera, piano

Six P.M., arr. Mark Taylor
Thanushka Lewkebandera, piano
Brett Bousley, guitar
Jacob Starr, tenor saxophone
Alex Johnson, trumpet

Lili’s Song, Paul G. White
Alex Winkler, piano

Six by Six, Doug Beach
Thanushka Lewkebandera, piano
Michael Autry, guitar

Pea Shooter, Jeff Lopez
Zack Woolhouse, tenor saxophone
Chad Tumminello, drums

Sambanice, Rob McConnell
David Ramirez, piano
Ruben Sepulveda, tenor saxophone
Landon Petersen, guitar

Nature Boy, arr. Gerald Massoud
Gerald Massoud, bass

Dearly Beloved, arr. Rich DeRosa
Justin Neumann, baritone saxophone

Blue in One, arr. Ryan Gabbart
Landon Petersen, guitar

There There, arr. James Miley
Darrel Materum, soprano saxophone
Henry Darragh, piano
Cameron Kubos, trumpet

Sister Sadie, arr. Michael Abene
Henry Darragh, piano
Darrel Materum, alto saxophone
Gerald Massoud, bass
Rick Harris, trombone

Concert details

Wednesday, April 18, 7:30pm
Moores School of Music Opera House
$10 general admission / $5 students
Click here for ticket information and directions

Recap: 14th Annual Moores Jazz Festival

The 14th Annual MSM Jazz Festival welcomed several schools from across not only Houston, but the entire south Texas region, and (as usual) we were impressed by the amount of talent heard during our two-day event. Each year’s bands continue to improve their skills along with their competitive spirit. Our judging panel had to spend a LOT of time deciding the results of each day’s activities. We are truly encouraged and inspired by the abundance of great jazz ensembles throughout the state of Texas.

Friday evening’s concert featured the Texas Music Festival Jazz Project, Houston’s all-star big band, and Saturday evening showcased saxophonist Seamus Blake with the MSM Jazz Orchestra. This may seem biased, but both evening’s performances were superb. Seamus Blake especially delivered on Saturday evening, performing a mix of his own original music with classic jazz and one standout composition by Vickie Yang. We were very happy to have him visit and contribute his knowledge in the afternoon clinics, as well. Any fan of jazz will want to take notice of Blake now as his star continues to rise in the jazz world. He is a fantastic musician who already boasts a distinguished pedigree and certainly has a promising future.

Thanks to our judges: Joel Fulgham, Johnny Gonzales and Armin Marmolejo for their great work. A HUGE thanks goes out to each school and band director for attending our festival; it cannot exist without your support and we hope that both you and your students gained some experience, knowledge and joy from this year’s event.

Outstanding High School of the Festival
Spring High School Jazz Band

Outstanding Middle School of the Festival
Memorial Middle School Jazz 1 – Harlingen, TX

Outstanding Soloist of the Festival
Clayton Farris, HSPVA

Outstanding High School of Friday
Katy High School Jazz Band

Outstanding Soloist of Friday
Clayton Farris, HSPVA

Outstanding High School of Saturday
Harlingen High School Honors Jazz

Outstanding Middle School of Saturday
Crosby Middle School

Outstanding Soloist of Saturday
Jessica Davis, Harlingen High School

All-Star Awards

Crosby Middle School, dir. Don Heaselet
Marcel Camacho
Shelby Innmon

Dekaney High School, dir. Trent Cooper & Ramsey Hampton
Jose Escovedo
Henry Espinoza
Kahlil Pinson

Harlingen High School, dir. Ronnie Rios, Maria Coronado & Marc Telles
David Dorado
Aaron Gomez
Juan Maldonado
AJ Padilla
TJ Saenz

Hastings High School, dir. Erich Sonnier & Paul Brodt
Luis Chacon
Emmanuel Otinwa
Salvador Velasco

Hightower High School, dir. Eduardo Tito Hernandez
Ashley Bacon
Davonte Jackson
Lumina Meneres

Houston School for the Performing and Visual Arts, dir. Warren Sneed
Ben Ackley
Paul Cornish
Jeremy Dorsey
Jeremy Dritton
James Francis
John Koozin
Blake Opper
Sterling Overshown
Andrew Sneed
Alex Wheeler

James E. Taylor High School, dir. Bruce Melville
Erik Jaimes
Thomas Zak

Katy High School, dir. Terence Gorton & Andrew Lee
Blake Meynig
Jessica Mortensen
Ryan Wollenberg

Lake Olympia Middle School, dir. Ray Hundl
Sahir Kahn

Memorial Middle School, Harlingen, TX, dir. James Keltner & Julissa Garcia
Dylan Flores
Alyssa Uribe

Quail Valley Middle School, dir. Kenny Borak
David Young

Pasadena High School, dir. Jacob Faske
Oscar Cruz
Eric Peña

Seven Lakes High School, dir. Geroge Archer & Jonathan Yoo
David Rebellon
Luis Quintero
Shane Smith
Austin Snowden

Spring High School, dir. J.D. Guzman
Victor Gonzalez
Theo Meadough
Zach Robinson

Spring Woods High School, dir. Jeffrey Munger
Kyle Guillemette

Waltrip High School, dir. Charlie Stephens & Jesse Espinoza
Jose Barrios
Mario Derreza
Johnny Olivares
Christina Peña
Carnell Simmons

The 14th Annual Moores School of Music Jazz Festival

Seamus Blake

Seamus Blake (Photo credit: TurboFreddy)

featuring saxophonist Seamus Blake

February 24 & 25, 2012

We are very pleased to announce that the 14th Annual MSM Jazz Festival will feature world renowned jazz artist Seamus Blake.

The Moores School of Music Jazz Festival features performances from middle and high schools throughout the day as well as two free clinics with Seamus Blake and the Jazz Orchestra at noon each day. No admission fee is required to observe these school performances or clinics.

Friday evening’s concert will showcase The Texas Music Festival Jazz Project, a big band made up of Texas-based jazz professionals, while Saturday evening’s performance belongs to Seamus Blake with the MSM Jazz Orchestra.* It promises to be an exciting event full of masterful musicianship, education and great jazz. If you are a student, teacher, professional musician or just a jazz fan we guarantee that you will not want to miss this weekend’s activities!

Click here for more information on the festival, including schedule, ticket information and details on how your school can participate.

*Evening events are ticketed

Winter Concert: November 16 & 17

The month of November always means the beginning of a hectic two months of holiday madness. We believe that jazz fans will find this concert a brief reprieve from such things and enjoy the music. If this will be the only live music you can witness during this season, then rest assured that it will be some of the best of the year.

The closing concert for the fall semester includes something special for everyone. Our big bands will be playing old favorites. new arrangements on old standards and some completely new compositions altogether. In addition to this, the program will feature some select combo features playing a Charlie Parker classic and a new work by student composer, Alex Winkler.

We are happy to be able to perform throughout the greater Houston area this concert season. The Jazz Orchestra will perform this concert again on November 17 at Spring High School in conjunction with the Spring High School Jazz Band under the direction of J.D. Guzman.

Program is as follows:

On Green Dolphin Street. arr. Dave Wolpe
Evan Withner, alto saxophone
Thanushka Lewkebandera, piano
Brett Bousley, guitar

In a Mellow Tone, arr. Roy Phillippe
Thanushka Lewkebandera, piano
Alex Johnson, piano

City, arr. Mike Tomaro
Yakub Saputra, piano

Last Minute Changes, Alex Winkler

Old Devil Moon, arr. Ryan Gabbart
Nick Madden, baritone saxophone
Alex Winkler, piano
Evan Withner, alto saxophone
Jose Hernandez, trombone

Wyrgly, Maria Schneider
Zack Woolhouse, tenor saxophone
Rick Harris, trombone
Andrew Dugas, guitar

If You Could See Me Now, arr. Bill Holman
Cameron Kubos, trumpet

Have You Heard, arr. Robert Curnow
Lee Redfearn III, alto recorder
Robert Wolf, guitar

Awakening, arr. Aaron Lington
Landon Petersen, guitar

Au Privave, arr. Med Flory

Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box, arr. Dan Cavanaugh
Darrel Materum, alto saxophone

Groove Merchant, Thad Jones

Concert details

Wednesday, November 16, 7:30pm
Moores School of Music Opera House
$10 general admission / $5 students
Ticket information

Thursday, November 17, 7:00pm
Spring High School
Admission is free and open to the public.

2011 Concert Season opener – October 5 & 6

The Moores School of Music jazz department will perform its first concert of the season on Wednesday, October 5 at the Moores School of Music. It’s the beginning of another exciting year for the jazz department atMooresand we are very eager to feature some new works by both new and established composer/arrangers.

Also new this year is a continuing concert series in conjunction with select schools acrossHouston. The MSM Jazz Orchestra will be repeating each of their concerts the following evening at another location. The October 5 concert will be repeated with the HCC Southeast Jazz on Thursday, October 6 as part of Houston Community College’s Fall Concert Series.

And in the future: our November 16 concert will be performed again on November 17 at Spring High School.

Program is as follows:

Para Los Rumberos. Tito Puente
Nicolas Diaz, Matthew Jones, Russell Maley, percussion
Ike Ukazu, drums

Just Squeeze Me, arr. Ryan Gabbart
Alex Winkler, piano

Naima, arr. Eduardo Hernandez
Jacob Starr, tenor saxophone
Yakub Saputra, piano

Doin’ Basie’s Thing, Sammy Nestico
Alex Winkler, piano
Nick Madden, baritone saxophone
Brett Bousley, guitar
Evan Withner, alto saxophone

A Lift of the Foot, Alan Baylock
Zach Woolhouse, tenor saxophone
Henry Darragh, trombone

I Thought About You, arr. Vern Sielert
Darrell Materum, alto saxophone
Cameron Kubos, trumpet

Black Orpheus, arr. Eric Richards
David Ramirez, piano
Glen Ackerman, bass
Ruben Sepulveda, tenor saxophone
Rick Harris, trombone
Ike Ukazu, drums

Idioteque, arr. Patty Darling
Darrell Materum, soprano saxophone

I Hope That in Time a Change Will Come, Oliver Nelson
Darrell Materum, soprano saxophone

Ya Gotta Try… Harder, Sammy Nestico
Henry Darragh, piano
Landon Petersen, guitar

Concert details

Wednesday, October 5, 7:30pm
Moores School of Music Opera House
$10 general admission / $5 students
Ticket information

Thursday, October 6, 7:00pm
Houston Community College Southeast Learning Hub
Admission is free and open to the public.

Quantum Mechanics concert October 3

We at the MSM Jazz Department are pleased to announce a special concert featuring UH alumnus and saxophone instructor, Woody Witt. Dr. Witt is part of a new collective group called Quantum Mechanics. The group features original material played in all forms and styles of contemporary jazz music.  Quantum Mechanics is rounded out by a rhythm section featuring Eric Wollman (guitar, compositions), Jim Donica (bass, compositions), Peter Grant (drums) and Witt on saxes and compositions.  The rhythm section is based in NYC and have played together for about 10 years and in that time have accomplished a high level of musical communication and interplay within their ensemble.

The new collective has been enjoying a very busy fall with an extensive tour of the Southern United States and we are very excited to have them stop by the University of Houston just before they record all their material for a debut album.

Concert details
Quantum Mechanics
Monday, October 3, 7:30pm
Dudley Recital Hall (located inside the Fine Arts building)
Admission is free and open to the public

The 2011 Texas Music Festival opens June 7

You won’t ever have a better reason to come out and hear some great jazz music than Tuesday evening (June 7). The 2011 Texas Music Festival will kick off its season with an outdoor party taking place at 6:30 pm in the Moores Opera House courtyard.  This pre-concert event will feature UH students and alums, with pre-concert music provided by the Henry Darragh Quartet. Food will be served from the Camarena Tequila Food Truck, helmed by Chefs Hugo and Ruben Ortega of Hugo’s Restaurant.

The concert will begin in the Moores Opera House at 7:30pm. Tickets are available for purchase here. We are finally selling tickets online!!!

Program is as follows:

Back to Basieques, Matt Catingub
Bolivia, arr. David Metzger
A Child’s Dance, Woody Witt, arr. Aaron Lington
Donnie’s Tempo, Michael Kocour
Evensong, Aaron Lington
Kickin’ and Screamin’, Chuck Owen
The Palmieri Effect, Brian Lynch
Surge, Chuck Owen

David Caceres
Kelly Dean
Woody Witt
Warren Sneed
Karl Fulbright

Gary Weldon
Dennis Dotson
Danny Wilson
Mike Harris

Ryan Gabbart
Armin Marmolejo
Ed Lowe
Bruce Melville
Carl Muller

Rhythm Section
Mike Wheeler, guitar
Ken Ward, piano
Anthony Sapp, bass
Joel Fulgham, drums

This will be the Houston premier of the 2011 Texas Music Festival, but for jazz fans outside of Houston, the TMF Jazz Project will perform on Monday, June 6 at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center on the Texas A&M University campus at 7:30 p.m.

Sponsored by KTSU 90.9 The Choice FM and Defender Network.

Texas Music Festival Summer Jazz Institute, June 12-17

Summer may not officially begin until June 21, but at the Moores School of Music summer always starts with the Texas Music Festival. While the majority of the festival is a workshop for college-level musicians, the jazz department hosts an annual  Jazz Institute for high school students.

The TMF Jazz Institute is a week-long, intensive program for younger players with an interest in learning about and performing jazz music. Students are given the chance to rehearse with some of the best and brightest young performers from across the city in a big band setting under direction by MSM Director of Jazz Studies, Noe Marmolejo.

Afternoon classes include:

  • Instrumental sectionals with some of Houston’s top professional jazz players
  • Music theory: the building blocks of music, learning jazz nomenclature, chords and scales
  • Jazz improvisation: applying theory to your instrument, learning basic soloing techniques
  • Master class jam sessions: our talented faculty gets a chance to show off their skills in an unrehearsed concert

We are always excited to be able to offer this course each summer.  The TMF Jazz Institute is a great way for any aspiring  young musician to get ahead in their pursuit of a musical career. For details and application information, click here.

Spring concert to feature many new works by students and alumni

Aaron Lington Henry Darragh Ryan Gabbart

Spring is here, which means that our concert season and semester are coming to a close here at the Moores School of Music. That’s good news for our students and even better news for our audience. Why, you ask? Because some of the finest performances of the year will close out the season from all departments within the school. If you are able to make it to any of these final concerts, we suggest that you do so! Click here to stay informed.

Coming off a successful and well-attended Jazz Festival, the jazz department’s final concert will feature both jazz ensembles playing a mix of classic and new big band jazz. The concert What we’re most excited about, however, is the inclusion of several new works written by students and alumni of the Moores School of Music.

Last month, Ryan Gabbart was featured as a guest writer for Mike Emery’s blog, Creative Pride, and two of the notable “Jazz Cats” mentioned will have their works performed. Henry Darragh’s “Late Night Latin” is a sizzling latin jazz composition in the traditional style, featuring a big brass sound and exciting soli writing for big band. Aaron Lington’s “Evensong” is a new ballad featuring the baritone saxophone that could best be described as music with a brilliant contemporary jazz sound. In addition to this, Gabbart (also a UH alum) will have his new arrangement of Jimmy Garrison’s “Ascendant” performed.

George Heathco Gerald Massoud

Two current Moores School graduate students will also have their works premiered. Bassist Gerald Massoud’s arrangement of the classic “Besame Mucho” is written big band and a vocalist in a 1950s lounge style, but is updated with a fantastic salsa section. George Heathco’s “Shred!” is a modern, complicated piece based on many new progressive rock styles with fantastic results. The composition has proven to be difficult to learn but rewarding in so many ways, both to the musicians and (we think) to the audience as well.

We can guarantee a great evening full of superb music and dedicated musicians who have worked long and hard all year long to prepare their craft for this moment. We hope that you will enjoy it as much as we have in preparing this finale.

Concert will take place Tuesday, April 19 at 7:30pm in the Moores Opera HouseTicket information available here, or call (713) 743.3313

Full program (in no particular order):

Toe Be or Not Toe Be, David Metzger
A Little Happiness, Sammy Nestico
Payback, Mike Tomaro
Walkin’ Shoes, Gerry Mulligan
The Easy Swing, Bob Mintzer
Late Night Latin, Henry Darragh
The Game is Over, Jukka Linkola
Ascendant, arr. Ryan Gabbart
Alone Together, arr. Tom Kubis
Besame Mucho, arr. Gerald Massoud
Shred!, George Heathco
Evensong, Aaron Lington
I Ain’t Gonna Ask No More, Toshiko Akiyoshi