By Sarah Downs
Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance has a robust, award-winning music program. Their excellence was well in evidence at Rose Hall on Sunday night April 16th, in a Classical-Jazz concert that featured the University’s Symphony Orchestra, Studio Orchestra, and Jazz Band. In addition, Temple’s Faculty Jazz Sextet performed, celebrating their new cd Fly With the Wind.
In a flurry of energetic percussion, daring brass and beguiling strings, the various ensembles shone, performing in several styles, from a pure classical sound, through old school jazz with its distinct texture and excitement, to brand new compositions that painted modern images with traditional sound. While the faculty professionals dazzled, I would have preferred to hear more student soloists. This was, after all, their concert.
The evening opened with Four Dances from Estancia, by Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera, excerpted from his ballet score commissioned in 1941. José Luis Domínguez conducted the large Symphony Orchestra with precision and warmth. You could feel his commitment to the music and, thereby, to the students. Ginastera’s ballet offers an embarrassment of riches – big sound, lush color, exciting rhythm, and motifs that echoed traditional Argentinian music. Concertmaster Alexandr Kislitsyn performed a beautiful solo, as the players evoked the style of each dance with confidence, including a true pastorale, with smooth legato string playing, and confident trumpets announcing a hunt.
Dances was followed by one of the evening’s two commissioned pieces: Billy Childs’ Labyrinth, played by the Studio Orchestra and featuring faculty members Terell Stafford on trumpet and Dick Oatts on saxophone. Labyrinth lives up to its name, with its veritable maze of time signatures and contrasting textures. At times it seemed as if the soloists were playing in total counterpoint to the Orchestra, without undermining the coherence of the piece as a whole.
The Faculty Sextet feasted on the density of sound of McCoy Tyner’s Fly With the Wind, arranged by pianist Bruce Barth. The music indeed flew, on seemingly improvisatory wings, in the expert hands of these players. Each solo seemed to inspire the next. Following that piece with Red Braid, composed by Jazz Band member and trumpeter Banks Sapnar, the program balanced density with harmony. The composition’s color and gentle musicality were so satisfying.
In the final section of the evening, José Luis Domínguez once again conducted with a glint in his eye and a decisive yet light hand. He led the Studio Orchestra as it debuted the evening’s other commissioned piece, Rainforests, by Bill Cunliffe, which featured the Faculty Sextet. Cunliffe celebrates the Earth’s lungs (as Rainforests are known to be) with big, melodic sound and daring rhythms, within which various instrumental voices spoke up, as the music built and retreated in waves. It was an excellent, upbeat choice to close the evening. The audience , many of whom were proud family members of the talented students onstage, responded in kind. Bravo!
Temple University Jazz Band, led by Terrell Stafford; Symphony Orchestra, led by music director/conductor José Luis Domínguez; Studio Orchestra, led by José Luis Domínguez, and Faculty Jazz Sextet: Terell Stafford (trumpet), Dick Oatts (alto saxophone), Tim Wafrield (tenor saxophone), Bruce Barth (piano), Mike Boone (bass), Justin Faulkner (drums),
Presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center. Sunday, April 16, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. at Frederick P. Rose Hall, The Shops at Columbus Circle.