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Jazz Listening Session #4 with Russ Gershon: Fletcher Henderson and Sun Ra via Zoom

Two separate takes including live discussion with attendees:
Thursday May 6, 7-9 PM EDT Register here
Saturday May 15, 3-5 PM EDT Register here 

Fletcher Henderson laid down a blueprint for the jazz big band, influential to the present day. His emphasis on precision, elegance and hiring top talent including Louis Armstrong, Don Redman and Coleman Hawkins was crucial in moving the center of gravity of jazz arranging from extemporaneous polyphony to a more orchestrated, sectional approach.

Sun Ra (née Herman "Sonny" Blount) led the Arkestra – the most far ranging large ensemble in jazz from the fifties through his passing in 1993. The band continues today under the guidance of Ra's "Johnny Hodges," alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, who anchored the reed section alongside tenor sax giant John Gilmore and baritonist Pat Patrick (Deval's father) for decades. Ra was among the first and most committed jazz musicians to utilize electric keyboards, electric bass, African drums, and group improvisation.

These two very different men, seventeen years apart in age, were connected in at least two ways: as a young man in Birmingham AL, Sonny Blount was profoundly affected by Henderson's recordings and live appearances. And in 1946, he worked as a pianist and arranger for Henderson on an extended engagement at the Club DeLisa in Chicago.

Our session will explore the major innovations that these two brought to the big band (a topic much too large for one session!) and listen to selected Henderson recordings and Sun Ra's take on the same material forty or more years later. We will also look at connections between the mind-bending spectacle that was an Arkestra show and both the night club shows and Black community pageants of Sonny Blount's formative years.

Ever-evolving Spotify playlist
"Just Kissed My Baby" to raise funds for the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic
I was invited to contribute a song video to Wolf's Virtual Mardi Gras Ball, an annual event, which premiered on Fat Tuesday, along with an array a fine contributions from musicians all over the country.

Mike Castellana of the great Blue Ribbons and many other bands plays guitars; I played all the other instruments and did the singing; Andy Plaisted mixed the track.

The Virtual Ball may be over, but you can still donate to the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic any time to help them with their great work.

Thanks,
Russ Gershon







The Quarry Dance IX film is now online here

Music by Russ Gershon

For the past eight years, the end of July has found me improvising music to accompany "Quarry Dance" at various locations on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Dusan Tynek choreographs his dancers in a variety of setting around, on and sometimes inside of the beautiful rocks, trees and water found in these settings.


The 2020 challenge for Dusan and his dancers was to transform what have been in the past ensemble works performed in front of sizable in-person audiences into something safe and appropriate for pandemic times. With the help of videographer Anders Johnson, they created intimate takes within grand settings, using smaller groupings and and the power of the closeup.


Instead of improvising on a series of instruments in response to the dancers, setting and audience, I locked myself in my dimly lit studio and created a variety of music, using virtual instruments, that is, samples and synthesizers. You can hear drum ensembles, all kinds of keyboards, woodwinds and percussion, along with sounds of nature. 


As with the live Quarry Dances, the choreography was created first and the music in response. For musicians and others interested in such things, there was no click track or sequencing used except a drum loop on one of the fourteen segments. I'll leave it to you to guess which one...


Hundreds attended the online premiere and Q&A sessions a month ago, but for those who were unable – and those who want to enjoy the work again – as of today the entire 34 minute dance is available for viewing at your pleasure.


As always, I thank Dusan, Alex, Jessie, Liz and Gary, and this year for the first time, Anders, for their extraordinary work. And I give special thanks for the opportunity to Windhover Executive Director Lisa Hahn, who carries on her late mother Ina Hahn's vision of Quarry Dance and Windhover.


And it's FREE

Quarry Dance is produced by the Windhover Performing Arts Center

Quarry Dance composer with pandemic beard (right)

Quarry Dance IX trailer (below)
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Accurate Records space available for band rehearsals

The fabulous space that many of you have enjoyed over the years is available as a rehearsal room. Large volume space – over 10,000 cubic feet. Drum set, amps, PA. Room for distancing.

Contact: russ@accuraterecords.com 617-899-9685