Jazz Ensemble

Williams Jazz Ensemble Family Days Concert

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Poster by HVB Design

The Williams College Department of Music presents the Williams Jazz Ensemble giving their first performance of the season in Chapin Hall at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. This free event is open to the public.

Saxophonist, composer, and jazz educator Kris Allen make his debut before the Williams College Jazz Ensemble during Williams Family Days. The WJE’s tradition is innovation, and in that way Mr. Allen fits right in. Introducing new musicians, new composers, and new music the ensemble and director offer an exciting evening of big band and small combo jazz sounds.

Introducing the concert, Mr. Allen leads off with an arrangement of his own, Stevie Wonder’s “Smile Please.”  He then turns his attention to young up- and -coming composers and arrangers of the New York scene. These are all musicians of the younger generation, who are already making a sensation. The WJE has the honor of introducing the audience to some of the cutting edge arrangements of today: “After the Morning” by John Hicks arranged by David Gibson, who garnered praise from jazz luminary Curtis Fuller, who said about Gibson, “Out of all the young players I hear in the music today, David is one of very few who speaks the language of jazz.” The next tune, “Arabia” by Curtis Fuller was arranged by Chris Casey, who has had works commissioned by Jackie McLean, Curtis Fuller, Steve Davis, PBS Television, and The Polish National Chamber Orchestra. “Noctilucent Shift” is by Sara Jacovino, a young composer and studio arranger who cut her teeth in the renowned One O’Clock Lab Band at the University of North Texas. She is hailed by the likes of David Baker as having a completely unique compositional and performing voice.

Shifting gears slightly, a small jazz combo consisting of Jonathan Dely ’15, trumpet; Taylor Halperin ’14, piano; Greg Ferland ’16, bass and Brian Levine ’16, drums, plays “Passion Dance” by McCoy Tyner. The group is coached by Avery Sharpe, himself a veteran of McCoy Tyner’s band.

The big band again takes the stage to perform a new arrangement of “My Funny Valentine” by Richard Rogers, Lorenz Hart arranged by Max Seigel, a bass trombonist who is in the thick of the New York jazz scene.

The last two pieces highlight the work of James Burton, a trombonist, composer, and arranger is the director of the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra. The ensemble plays a work arranged by him, “SKJ Blues” by Milt Jackson, before presenting “Going Somewhere” composed and arranged by Mr. Burton.

About Kris Allen
Kris Allen has performed with many living legends of jazz music, including Illinois Jacquet, Gerald Wilson, Curtis Fuller, Andy Gonzales, and Curtis Fuller, as well as with modern stars such as Helen Sung, Winard Harper, Jeremy Pelt, Andy Laverne, the Mingus Dynasty, and Mario Pavone. For several years Kris co-led the innovative Panamerican Trio with percussionist Rogerio Boccato and the late bassist Charles Flores. Kris has enjoyed a long-term musical association across several projects with the Curtis Brothers and has been a member of Kendick Oliver’s New Life Jazz Orchestra for over a decade. He can also be found frequently appearing in groups led by pianists Noah Baerman, Earl Macdonald, or his wife, Jen Allen. Kris currently serves as the Artistic Director of the Hartford Jazz Society New Directions Ensemble, and he is a founding member of the collaborative Jazz Samaritan Alliance. Kris Allen is a Lyell B. Clay Artist in Residence in Jazz and Lecturer in Music, and is the director of the Williams Jazz Ensemble. He has taught at Trinity College, the Hartt School, Southern Connecticut State University, and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts prior to joining the Williams community. Allen has also been a senior teaching artist in the many educational programs of Litchfield Performing Arts since 2001.