“Man from Tanganyika” (McCoy Tyner) and “Jitterbug Waltz” (Fats Waller). I heard Vince’s arrangement of “…Tanganyika” while playing in his Bakers Dozen ensemble. “Jitterbug Waltz” was part of his performance repertoire in a trio setting with IRA Sullivan and guitarist Joe Diorio. In Vince’s honor, Mike Levine and I wanted to give “Jitterbug” a treatment in the tradition of “I’m All Smiles”, which Vince and I co-arranged, and would represent his approach and commitment to melodic development.
I heard “Islands” (Mike Mainieri) for the 1st time on the debut Steps Ahead recording. I became a big fan of the band and Mike Mainieri’s compositions. Drummer, Peter Erskine, helped me get in contact with Mike, who provided me with a lead sheet to the composition. Mike agreed to be a guest artist on the project and suggested a series of chord changes to use during his solo section, which he used in Steps Ahead concerts.
In looking through the vast amount of Chick Corea’s recordings, I came upon several versions of Chick’s “Bud Powell”, honoring the great bebop pianist and composer. It seemed like the perfect solo vehicle for saxophonist, Ed Maina, Trumpeter, Jason Carder, and pianist, Mike Levine.
In looking for some original material, I asked composer/pianist Mike Levine to send me some of his compositions to review. Mike sent me recordings of several great tunes, including “Carmencita”, named for his wife Carmen, and “Jaco”, named in honor of the great electric bassist, Jaco Pastorius. Mike had already recorded tracks for both compositions for a “smooth jazz” project but had decided they weren’t a good fit for that production. We worked together to re-arrange the pieces and add the horn parts. Later, Mike sent me “Part of Me”, which came in the form of a lead sheet. He had done a reharmonization of “All of Me” for a vocalist from which he created a new melody.
“Missouri Uncompromised” (Pat Metheny) came from Pat’s debut album, “Bright Size Life”. I had selected 2 tunes from the album originally to arrange for The Jaco Pastorius Big Band’s 2nd album, “The Word is Out”. “Sirabhorn” was selected. When Mike Mainieri , Mark Egan, and Peter Erskine committed to appear as guests, I re-arranged “Missouri…” to feature Mike, Mark, and Mike Levine.
“Some Other Time” (Cahn/Styne) has been one of my long-time favorite ballads. I spent some time studying a Bill Evans trio version and saw an opportunity to use some orchestration techniques I’d learned from studying Gil Evans’ scores. Ballads don’t usually attract large groups of listeners, but they have provided me with great opportunities to experiment and grow as an arranger/orchestrator.
I was introduced to “Loft Dance” (David Liebman) in the late 1970’s when David Liebman spent time with us at UM as a clinician. He brought a big band arrangement of “Loft Dance” with him by Tom Boras from his “Drum Ode” album. The album and the “Loft Dance” track quickly became favorites. The Tom Boras arrangement was later recorded by The UM Concert Jazz Band under the direction of Whit Sidener. I contacted David to see if he had a lead sheet for the composition and asked if he might be interested in a guest appearance if he liked what we put together. He directed me to his manager, David Love, who helped me secure the score to Tom’s original chart. I selected several passages from Tom’s arrangement and along with some format and orchestration changes I formulated our version. It has been great to reunite with David Liebman after many years.
“When She Loved Me” (Randy Newman) from “Toy Story 2” grabbed my attention when the song was nominated for an Oscar in 2000. It was my intension for this to be a special feature for my brother, Neal, on Oboe and English Horn. When Neal became critically ill, shortly after we completed our “Cartoon Bebop” album, we were still hopeful he might be able to record this one last track. I originally conceptualized the arrangement in a somewhat “classical” style. Once it became apparent Neal might could not gain back enough strength to record his part in time for this release, I decided to re-orchestrate the piece and started planning another feature for him on a future recording. As we added the tenor sax, fretless bass, and drums the track took on an entire change of style, adding elements of country and gospel. Sadly, Neal passed away on April 30th. His voice is irreplaceable. We are greatly diminished…..
WHIT SIDENER - INTERVIEW
As one of our most accomplished Jazz Educators, Whit Sidener led and developed one of our nation's leading Studio Music and Jazz Programs. As a Department Chairman and Director/Conductor of the Concert Jazz Band at The University of Miami Frost School of Music, Whit had a great impact on countless student musicians, many of whom have gone on to very successful careers. As a Professor Emeritus, I asked him to share his background, experience, and outlook for the future of Jazz Education.
1. Having had a long and prestigious career in Jazz Education as both the Department Chairman and Director of the University of Miami Concert Jazz Band, you were also one of South Florida's premier saxophone/woodwind players. You enjoyed a storied studio and performance career, that included countless Gold and Platinum recordings, with Internationally known recording artists. Please tell us about your education and early career in music before coming to South Florida?
I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana and was raised by a single mother, so money was tight. I went to public schools and played clarinet in the high school band. I never got really serious about playing until I was asked to join a polka band for pay. One of their players, who was very good, was an alcoholic, so they had to let him go. The catch was, I had to play some saxophone. My mom lent me 80 bucks to buy an old Conn alto and I learned enough in a few days to fake it on the gig until I started to get it together. Most of my friends had after school jobs working in a grocery store or delivering papers and I figured it would be more fun to play in a polka band.
This went on for about a year and I was asked to join a better band that had more experienced players, which required me to join the union. It paid a lot better than the polka band. We played for Holiday on Ice, the circus and country club gigs. When I graduated from high school I went to Indiana U for one semester, but got sick with mono and had to go home. Michigan state was on the quarter system, so I transferred there later in the spring. I played in the jazz band and met some older guys. I was there for summer term and one night I got a call from a friend saying that Sam Donahue’s Tommy Dorsey Band was in the area and one of their sax players was an alcoholic. They had to fire him and needed a sub until they could get a guy out of NY to join them and asked me if I wanted to do it. I jumped at the chance and ended up staying a year and a half. We played every place - New York, Vegas, LA and recorded - It was a wonderful band with seasoned players.
This was my education in music. I made very good money for an 18-year-old kid. I bought top quality instruments. After about six months, I switched over to the Bari chair. Good times!
When I moved to South Florida, it was easy to transition to the Miami Beach scene. It was a great time to be a young working musician. My teacher at the University of Miami was Kirby Campbell. Kirby was the leading woodwind player in Miami at the time. He told me I could make a lot more money and get more work if I played flute and piccolo. I bought a flute and picc and practiced like crazy and got pretty good at flute, but I never did get very good at the piccolo LOL!
2. How influential, to your approach to Jazz Education, was your career as a performing studio musician?
Pretty much everything. That’s what I knew. At one point, when I was very young Jamey Aebersold, showed me some piano exercises. It was basically II V I drop two voicings in every key. When I was off school and ill, I got so bored that I actually started to practice piano. It opened up a whole world for me. Later, I met Jerry Coker and Gary Campbell and some others and learned a lot more.
3. During your tenure at Miami, did you have any subject areas that you particularly enjoyed ?
I mostly enjoyed teaching improvisation classes and piano (Keyboard Harmony) for non-piano players. I also had some good times with the Concert Jazz Band as well.
4. Were there some specific characteristics you looked for when recruiting and selecting players for the Concert Jazz Band?
I needed strong lead players, good soloists and a kick ass rhythm section.
5. Over the years, you had many renowned jazz players as visiting clinicians. Do you think they played an overall meaningful role?
Absolutely! What a thrill to work with Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Gerry Mulligan, Pat Matheny etc.
6. What do you think were some of the major contributors to a program that has helped create so many very successful musicians over your 5 decades at Miami?
A vibrant local music business. A forward thinking caring and present faculty. Flexible administrators willing to go with new ideas.
7. During those years, in addition to juggling your teaching and gig schedule, you had some very important administrative responsibilities with a large faculty and with 3 different Deans of the School of Music. Do you think decisions and interactions with your faculty and the Deans played an important part in the program's success?
A University is a political institution and as you very well know, you win some, you lose some and hopefully you win more than you lose.
8. The "Music Business" and Jazz Education went through a lot of major changes during your years at UM with technology dominating the profession. What do you think is in store for college programs offering modern music? How do you think programs like you had at UM will have to adjust to remain pertinent in the present and in the future?
A very complicated issue. Now every school has a jazz program. Most musicians will need to have a second profession. The opportunities that I had are not out there anymore. Universities need to adapt and stop sending young people out into the world with massive student debt and limited marketable skills.