Jazz meets classical

Discussion in 'music, bands, clubs & festies' started by ska invita, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

    Whats out there?

    Came up on another thread....

    Stumbled on this over the weekend
    Keith Jarrett meets Norwegian sax player Jan Garbarek - 1974 record called Luminescence
    Basically sax over a string section, which I guess Keith arranged as theres no piano?
    ..certainly the best jazz musicians know the classical cannon/scales/intervals/etc and even reference it directly...

    ...sometimes the classical influences arent immediately clear in jazz, but are there within runs of a solo.. are there examples in inverse, of jazzy classical music, where the jazz elements are subsumed?
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016
    danny la rouge likes this.
  2. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

    I havent got much to post here...hoping others will...@knotted?

    This is an amazing soundtrack: Howard Shore doing hte orchestral bits with Ornette Coleman on top, for Cronenbergs Naked Lunch.
    Its a score best listened to within the film, rather than stand alone - a bit hard work on its own - the two elements come together so well...

    And as was said in the other thread, the stuff between Miles and Gil Evans....Sketches of Spain and Porgy & Bess especially
    love this:
  3. Pickman's model

    Pickman's model every man and every woman is a star

  4. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

  5. danny la rouge

    danny la rouge Raddled old poet

    I'd join in but I'm on the motorway. Well, At Gretna services.

    *driving home (to Mrs la rouge's) home for Christmas*
    ska invita likes this.
  6. Lurdan

    Lurdan old wave

    Interesting topic. There were lots of occasions where Jazz and Classical music met, mostly it has to be said, on the jazz side. Since the worst Jazz and Classical 'purists' could give even brexit debaters lessons in snobbery and inverted snobbery it's often led to entertaining controversy, as well as both interesting, and um, 'interesting', musical fusions.

    One meeting point was the 'swinging the classics' fad in the late 1930s. This began with the adaptation of tunes from the classical and light classical repertoire into pop hits. One of my favourite examples is by the great Connie Boswell with Bob Crosby's Bob Cats in 1938

    Swing was very much young peoples music and some of this was done in the same spirit in which the Mike Flowers Orchestra recorded Oasis's 'Wonderwall' - it was thumbing a nose at the pretentiousness of middlebrow taste. Flotow the composer of 'Martha' was long dead - when Connie followed up with an equally cheeky version of 'Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life' from Victor Herbert's still enormously popular operetta "Naughty Marietta" her record company made it clear that a line had been crossed.

    Other examples of 'Swinging the Classics' were more respectfully artistic and 'serious' in intent. Here's Benny Goodman playing Alex Templeton's 'Bach Goes To Town'.

    This more serious intent wasn't necessarily any better appreciated. In October 1938 a letter from the President of the New Jersey Bach Society to the Federal Communications Commission was reprinted on the front page of the New York Times :
    'Outraged of New Jersey' demanded that the FCC take action against radio stations committing these offences to class and racial decorum.
    This led to a great deal of commentary and mirth. One response was from veteran band leader Paul Whiteman who announced the formation of a 'Non-Partisan Committee To Suppress Musical Bigotry'.


    That Whiteman should grasp the publicity opportunity the 'controversy' presented is unsurprising since he was really the pioneer of jazz and light classical fusion. One of the big hits of the 'Swinging the Classics' period was Tommy Dorsey's version of Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Song of India'. Whiteman had recorded it as a foxtrot back in 1921. Much more significantly he had led the way in performing what he called 'symphonic jazz' orchestrations for larger ensembles, and in taking his music into concert halls. In 1924 at New York's Aeolian Hall he led a 23 piece orchestra in a concert entitled 'An Experiment in Modern Music'. It included the premiere of Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' which he had commissioned Gershwin to write. Whiteman's music, which in some ways prefigured the Boston Pops rather than the more 'serious' jazz-classical fusions, might be despised by 'hot jazz' purists, but his ambition to play with larger groups and broader musical textures, and in more upmarket (and better paying) venues was shared by others. Most notably Duke Ellington.

    Fifteen plus years later at the height of the swing boom the financial success of the bigger bands led to the commissioning of all kinds of 'suites' and 'concertos', some simply based on classical melodies, some expressing light classical ambitions. Tommy Dorsey for example commissioned Nathaniel Shilkret's Trombone Concerto, and played it with Leopold Stokowski conducting the New York City Symphony. Many of these commissions didn't find their way into the regular band repertoire - the band leaders would arrange special concert performances with attendant publicity. But some jazz classical fusion elements found their way into band arrangements.

    One of the incubators of cool jazz was the Claude Thornhill Orchestra which amongst others had Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan arranging for it. Evan's arrangements were often of bop tunes but here he takes on Tchaikovsky in 1946. Not hard to hear traces of the future 'Sketches of Spain'. (Or indeed of the adaptations of Borodin which in other hands produced the hit orientalist musical 'Kismet' in 1953)

    Others went beyond expanding the arrangers palette. Woody Herman commissioned Stravinsky to write a couple of compositions including 'Ebony Suite'. Sadly the versions on YouTube are geoblocked. This download link is working at the moment although you will have to open it in another tab if you just want to play it :


    Arguably the big band leader most committed to this more ambitious kind of fusion was Stan Kenton. His theme tune 'Artistry in Rhythm' (influenced by Ravel) was emblematic but over time he became more ambitious still. By the start of the 50s he was touring a 40 piece orchestra with string and woodwind sections, and he had also begun to embrace modern classical and experimental music. Bob Graettinger's suites 'City of Glass' (1951) and 'This Modern World' (1953), written for Kenton, look forward not just to the 'third stream' experiments in composition of the late 50s but to the atonal modernism of some of the post-bop 'new music'. Here's part of 'City of Glass'. Anthony Braxton loved it.

    Of course by this time the movement of some jazz musicians away from dance halls to concert halls and the college circuit - the 'fuck dance let's art' tendency so to speak - was well under way.
  7. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

    Great post Lurdan, really interesting, thanks for it.

    Having a had a look around I think there are a few key ways in which the jazz meets classical thing can be done...please add others if you can think of them.

    1. Improvised classical music, played in a classical style - (like this Gabriela Montero - Improvisation on Bach's Goldberg Variations)
    2. Classical scoring with improvising solo instrument(s), soloing in a jazz style - Like the Naked Lunch OST in post 2 and Luminescence in the OP
    3. Playing jazz based on themes and melodies from the classical cannon - such as swinging the classics, for worse or better
    4. Playing jazz with some classical forms and scales influencing the soloing - far more subtle than swinging the classics - often unnoticeable to the untrained ear
    5. Writing long-form jazz based on grand classical structures (ballets, symphonies etc) - like Duke Elington's Black Brown & Beige

    Number 2 is the one that feels like the most 'correct' way of going about this, in that it allows both traditions their room to be.

    I think the thing that really separates the two traditions is that in jazz rhythm is first, and in most cases thats defined by a drum kit. A drum kit is a loud and dominating instrument, and once you're playing a beat it forces all other instruments into playing within the groove it makes, and that can often limit the sonic room for what they can play and still sound good.

    The popular Hooked on Classics series, which put a crappy little beat over classical standards demonstrates how drum grooves really spoil classical music.

    As someone who loves drum-centered music, classical music makes for a nice change to my ears in that it gets rid of drum tracks completely, and that allows for completely different possibilities.

    In that Guardian link it mentions at the end a piece called Blood on the Floor, which seems to have a good stab at getting a drum kit playing within an orchestra. But when its Classical-style music first the groove always feels a bit out of place to my ears. Better that its funky first!
    Like this: the brilliant orchestral/big band versions of J DIlla - Suites for Ma Dukes:
    Definitely a high point in this kind of thing:

    So much room for future writing this area I think....
    danny la rouge likes this.
  8. nogojones

    nogojones Well-Known Member

    Derick Bailey and co / Company seem to sort of bride a gap between free jazz and contempory classical

    and Joachim Kuhn sort of floats round that area as well

  9. JuanTwoThree

    JuanTwoThree Back to the mug-shot

    Mention should be made of Emir Deodato and Wendy Carlos. Wendy's work on Clockwork Orange and as a synth pioneer in general is important; So is what Deodato did where classical met jazz and funk and Latin.

    It may seem a bit cheesy now, but you only have to look at who played on "Thus spake" to see the heavy-hitters
    As for Wendy, she was a close collaborator with Moog, and "Switched on Bach" was probably the most influential electronic music ever produced. Was it more popped-up or jazzed-up? The latter I'd say though this was the time of Santana and Procul Harum and everything got blurry.
    ska invita likes this.
  10. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

    Great example (though theres no jazz soloing)
    Alice Coltrane - Spring Sounds
    "Stravinsky has once again wonderfully inspired me. The infinity sound of the eternity permeates his music. I am truly grateful to Stravinsky for his offerings, and for the sharing of his gifts with us: and for the channel through which he communicates to me from the other world."

    she was such a space cadet, i love it

    (from the Eternity LP - also the opening tracks is mad mix of indian soloing, big band, and big orchestral string section)
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018
    danny la rouge likes this.
  11. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

    rereading the thread and since you posted that i heard this, really blew me away, just not what I knew of Duke Elington
    Black, Brown & Beige

    I see there is also this
    The Ellington Suites - Wikipedia
    havent heard that
  12. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

    a couple of interesting bits ive come across from doing the back to 68 thread

    A Genuine Tong Funeral - vibes player Gary Burton playing a suite of semi classical pieces on the theme of death :) dont think it did very well!
    at times straight jazzy but others more clearly jazz meet classical
    opening bits:

    From an album called Left & RIght by Rahsaan Roland. Bit of a mixed bag of tunes and ideas but some with some orchestral instruments in, especially this
    "Expansions: Kirkquest/Kingus Mingus/Celestialness/A Dream of Beauty Reincarnated/Frisco Vibrations/Classical Jazzical/El Kirk" - 19:37
    danny la rouge likes this.
  13. ska invita

    ska invita back on the other side

    Wasnt sure where to put this but this thread is close enough, since were talking about Duke Elington suites upthread

    This is excellent... from the proms recordings
    BBC iPlayer - BBC Proms - 2019: Ellingtons Sacred Music
    "Cerys Matthews introduces an evening of jazz, gospel and Broadway-style music inspired by Duke Ellington's three sacred concerts. In a Proms premiere, Peter Edwards conducts the Nu Civilisation Orchestra in a new version of these landmark works, written originally between 1965 and 1973."

    Carleen Anderson (once from Young Disciples) on vocals too

    25 days left on iplayer from today
    danny la rouge likes this.
  14. danski

    danski Comfortable chair.


Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice