Runaway Blues is live! If you haven't seen the video or heard the song... watch it now.
For the past couple years I have had the pleasure of arranging all of the music for Sasha's Bloc. The band, brainchild of leader Alex Gershman, is a cabaret-style jazz band. Gershman, a Seder Sinai urologist by trade, writes the songs. In the case of Runaway Blues, Bob McChesney (probably the greatest living jazz trombonist) and Alvin Chea (bass vocalist of Take 6) both had their hand at reharmonizing the song and revising the lyric. I had the wonderful job of arranging their flawless work for the 9-piece ensemble.
To top it off, I got to conduct the session at Capitol Studio A. Take 6 was a dream to work with. I have been a fan of their music since I first heard them in college (circa 2001). Not in my wildest dreams would I be standing in front of the world-class ensemble only 15 years later.
On June 28 at the Vittoria Jazz Festival in Sicily, Italy, famed saxophonist Francesco Cafiso will premier his nine-piece jazz band. His entire set of music, 10 original jazz tunes penned by Cafiso, have been arranged by yours truly. It was a unique pleasure to arrange Cafiso's music. Those familiar with Cafiso's writing know how dissimilar the two of us are in terms of musical vocabulary. I like to think of my own music as having simple melodies backed by loud exciting orchestration. Cafiso's music pairs cyclical harmony with Thad Jones-like melodies that dance around in the upper chord extensions. Working with his music has been an enlightening process that, while challenging to my conventions, has opened my ears to new musical ideas.
If you are lucky enough to me in Italy for the concert, please hold up your phone and proudly catch a video of the performance because I would love to see and hear how it goes!
Starting in late 2014, I have been the arranger for Alex Gershman's neo-jazz project Sasha's Bloc. The band features many of the best instrumentalists in Los Angeles including Bob McChesney, Kye Palmer, Brandon Fields, Alex Budman, among many others.
Sasha's Bloc features an impressive array of singers, many of whom I have had the pleasure of arranging for including Jane Monheit and Alvin Chea (Take 6).
Be on the lookout for a brand new recording by Sasha's Bloc and Take 6, arranged by yours truly.
Starting in the Fall of 2015, I have joined the faculty at Long Beach City College. I am teaching the jazz trumpet students, both of which have made incredible progress this year. In addition, I taught a music appreciation class on the music of Latin America. In the Spring, I begin teaching a class on multi-cultural music and music hybridization in the United States.
For the Winter quarter, I joined the faculty at Cal Poly Pomona to teach instrumental arranging.
In April, 2015, I was hired by one of my favorite composers, John Clayton, to help him write arrangements for "It Don't Mean a Thing... A Celebration of Swing." The show was an all-star gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. While the experience was a bit of a whirlwind, I ended up co-arranging 4 charts for the show. Highlights include an adaptation of a live Ellington version of Take the A-Train to feature Terance Blanchard, and a medley of Andrews Sisters songs performed by The Puppini Sisters.
The true highlight of the whole experience was experiencing Mr. Clayton's writing process first hand. I learned how he sketches his scores on 3 grand staffs, and I got to ask him why and how he writes for five trumpets.
I heard that the show was an overwhelming success.
I am currently working hard at orchestrating the new musical "Recorded In Hollywood." The show is a historical dramatization of the rise of music producer John Dolphin. The show is set to open in April.
I am also working on a commission for Esperanza High School's award-winning jazz band. Esperanza has a wonderful band and a terrific music teacher, Brad Davis. I cannot wait to hear them in concert!
This weekend I will be performing at the JEN Conference in San Diego with jazz/hip hop group "Urban Renewal Project." I hope to see you there!
Finally, I will be giving a clinic on arranging for jazz combo and big band at Moorpark College on January 14th. I believe this is open to the public, so please feel free to drop by this as well!
Arturo Sandoval and his All-Star Big Band played two of my arrangements at his Walt Disney Concert Hall debut performance. The second song of the concert was my version of "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)". Then (about 90 minutes later), Arturo's final closer was my arrangement of "Angels We Have Heard On High."
As a trumpeter, I have been a huge fan of Arturo Sandoval since I was first introduced to his music in high school. It was a real treat to hear him lend his incredible chops to my arrangements!
In November I had the incredible pleasure of lending my big band to several of my heroes for a concert called "Vintage Masters of Swing." This sold-out show at Catalina's Jazz Club featured many great composers of the big band era conducting their work: Van Alexander, Patrick Williams, Van Alexander, Bill Holman, and Sammy Nestico. The show was helmed by acclaimed composer and orchestrator Tim Simonec.
It was a night that will stick with me for the rest of my life!
For a complete run-down of the show, check out this article.
The band Sacha's Bloc recently recorded a new full-length album. I was fortunate to write two of the arrangements for the record. The band features a bunch of my favorite instrumentalists, including Bob McChesney, Kye Palmer and Alex Budman.
One arrangement I did for the record, a song called "Sunday Blues", featured guest-vocalist Jane Monheit. I can't wait for everyone to hear this lovely collaboration!