Jazz Masters LIve

Tanglewood Jazz Festival, Lenox, Massachusetts

Held every Labor Day weekend for nearly a quarter-century, the Tanglewood Jazz Festival is a fitting end to the venue’s music season. In 2011, the event was made even more special by the participation of two NEA Jazz Masters through the NEA Jazz Masters Live program: Jimmy Cobband Gunther Schuller. Both played on the final day of the festival, September 4.

NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Cobb behind the drums during his performance at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival.

 

NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Cobb behind the drums during his performance at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival. Photo by Hillary Scott, courtesy of Tanglewood Jazz Festival

Cobb played with the Coast to Coast Septet, featuring guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist John Webber, pianist Llew Matthews, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, and saxophonists Jaleel Shaw and Doug Lawrence. Vocalist Mary Stallings was a special guest of the ensemble. Cobb’s set offered a look at his lengthy career, spanning from his work on Miles Davis’ Kind of Bluealbum through his work with vocalists such as Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan to his work with a new generation of jazz musicians. (A clip of Cobb’s performance can be found here.)

NEA Jazz Master Gunther Schuller conducts the Mingus Orchestra at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival.

NEA Jazz Master Gunther Schuller conducts the Mingus Orchestra at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival. Photo by Hillary Scott, courtesy of Tanglewood Jazz Festivall

Schuller conducted the Mingus Orchestra, which was assembled by Mingus’ widow, Sue Graham Mingus, in order to continue presenting the jazz composer’s music. The orchestra included special guest Edmar Castaneda on Peruvian harp. The performance included many of Charles Mingus’ lesser-known compositions for larger bands, including “Taurus in the Arena of Life,” “Half-Mast Inhibition,” and a world premiere Schuller arrangement of “Chill of Death.” (A clip of the orchestra’s performance can be foundhere.)

In addition, the festival included a screening of the live performance of Charles Mingus’ epic composition Epitaph that was conducted by Schuller in 1989 (and supported by an NEA grant) as part of the outreach activities. Cobb conducted a master class for young drummers from ages eight to early teens in collaboration with the not-for-profit Berkshires Jazz. Students were able to interact with and ask questions of Cobb about everything from his personal history to his drumming technique (which were answered with demonstrations on his drums). Both Cobb and Schuller were interviewed on Saturday afternoon by jazz critic Bob Blumenthal in a session open to all festival attendees.

Berkshire Jazz President Edward J. Bride, who worked with the festival on the NEA Jazz Masters outreach activities found the events to be exceptionally successful: “It’s safe to say that without the support of the NEA, audiences would have far fewer opportunities to hear masters like Jimmy Cobb and Gunther Schuller. It is significant that many of the pioneers of America's only indigenous music, our cultural gift to the world (or, as others are wont to say, "America's classical music") are still vibrant performers and leaders, and it would be a cultural tragedy if opportunities were to evaporate.”