Two of Buffalo's most significant music icons collide in a fine evening of jazz at Kleinhans this week. Orchestra Meets Jazz will rock the music hall on Thursday evening when the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Colored Musicians Club perform both together and consecutively.
But these two cultural treasures have been evolving in parallel and collaborating since their nearly simultaneous inception more than eighty years ago.
The Colored Musicians Club received its charter and was incorporated on July 25, 1935. On November 7th of that same year, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra performed its first official concert in the Elmwood Music Hall. Kleinhans Music Hall was dedicated by the BPO in a memorable concert on October 12, 1940.
Jazz, the quintessential American music, traveled all the way to Europe and back before becoming a part of the orchestral canon here in the U.S. Composers like George Gershwin ultimately became masters of using the sounds of jazz in the symphony hall.
Buffalo is a high profile geography on the fascinating trajectory of jazz. I was entralled by the history and the compelling stories associated with jazz in our community that I discovered at the Colored Musicians Club Museum. Interactive exhibits introduce guests to the greats who performed here, from Benny Goodman to Billie Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald, to the many world-renowned jazz musicians who hailed from the Nickel City, and to jazz itself. Discover where Buffalo was located on the "Chitlin Circuit." Hear the music, see the faces, and experience this unique facet of our community. The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 11:00am-4:00pm, and is quickly becoming a must-see for visitors. If you're lucky, George Scott will share his extraordinary knowledge of and enthusiam for the genre with you during your visit.
The history of the BPO is just as colorful. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra: The BPO Celebrates 75 Years captures this parallel history in 126 pages of color photographs and fascinating stories. Full disclosure: I am proud to have published this beautiful book. Meet every music director, from Lajos Shuk to JoAnn Falletta. Learn that both the BPO and Kleinhans were WPA projects. Laugh at the Snoopy connection. Follow the 14-year-long genesis of Artpark, and find a jazz connection during nearly every era of the orchestra.
Add to this the tale of the Community Music School, and you will have covered an enormous swath of Buffalo's illustrious music tapestry, with perhaps a dash of Jim Santella's new book Classic Rock, Classic Jock to fill in some additional jazz, blues and rock 'n' roll tidbits from the past forty years.
The Orchestra Meets Jazz program will be conducted by the BPO's Stefan Sanders. A five-piece combo from The Colored Musicians Club will join the BPO, illustrating Buffalo’s important role in the emergence of jazz in America.
Stay after the concert to continue the conversation (and dance!) at a party in the Mary Seaton Room with music by the George Scott Big Band. Yes. The same George Scott who accompanies fortunate visitors through the Colored Musicians Club Museum.
The Orchestra Meets Jazz musical line-up is:
- Bernstein - Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (Rumble)
- Small Combo from CMC plays a short rag (Joplin, etc.)
- Stravinsky - Ragtime (1918)
- Small Combo CMC plays New Orleans-style blues
- Copland - Music for the Theatre, Movement IV, Burlesque (1925)
- Gershwin - An American in Paris (1928)
- Ellington - Sophisticated Lady (1932)
- Including solos from CMC combo
- Small combo from CMC performs Arlen’s Over the Rainbow with vocalist
The Colored Musicians Club Combo members include: Barry Boyd (bass), George Caldwell (piano), Carol McLaughlin (saxophone/clarinet), Abdul-Rahman Qadir (drums), Donna Robbins (vocalist).
Even if you can't make the concert, be sure to spend some quality time at the Colored Musicians Club Museum at 145 Broadway. And here's a tip: The George Scott Big Band rehearses at the Club every Monday night. Admission is free, and the experience is initmate and unique.