Jazz Ensemble

Williams Jazz Ensemble with Don Braden

Andrew Jaffe, director

Taste is a complex thing: it takes of combination of elements to make something really irresistible. Outside of big cities, music fans are pretty much denied the complex pleasures of the big band. The loss of this unique American genre on the landscape has also brought the decline of even small formations. As venues disappear, the pleasure of hearing soloists becomes a rare treat.

The great exception to the overall trend can be found in places like Williamstown, where jazz, both big band and small group, thrives. The man responsible for this, Andy Jaffe, not only passes on his vast knowledge of all things music to generations of jazz students, but also keeps a community alive and kicking hard. Through concerts by the Williams Jazz Ensemble, faculty recitals, student performances and all of the spin-off energy created thereof, anyone with a taste for the great American art form that is jazz can enjoy a fine repast right in the heart of the Berkshires, often and plentifully.

The next big event combines the soulful sound of the great Don Braden with the sublime experience that is big band. There are a lot of names to be dropped when considering Don Braden: Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Freddie Hubbard and Roy Haynes, just to name a few. Mr. Braden has released his fourteenth CD as leader titled Gentle Storm. Born in Cincinnati, raised in Louisville and schooled by among others the renowned Jamie Aebersold, he attended Harvard where he divided his time between studying engineering and performing at jazz clubs in Boston. At this time he began writing and arranging for dance, film and music projects as well as is own quartet. Among other high profile composing honors, was his work for four years as co-music supervisor/composer for Bill Cosby’s most recent CBS sitcom, “Cosby”.

The Williams Jazz Ensemble and local jazz lovers are lucky to have pulled Mr. Braden into their orbit. As a saxophonist, composer, arranger, and teacher, Don represents the highest levels of strength, creativity, discipline, joy, and soulfulness in his classic jazz journey. He expresses a contemporary point of view powerfully, spiritually, intelligently – and most important – with a tasty swinging jazz style. Don Braden and big band; now that is irresistible.

The flagship Williams Jazz Ensemble (big band) plays formal concerts on campus, and also travels each year, with performances ranging from the Boston area to New York as well as throughout the Western Mass. region. In January of 2008 the Ensemble was in residence at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico.