SAM Art of Jazz Concert Series:
Tom Varner Tentet:  world premiere of Tom Varner’s “heaven and hell,” a new work for tentet.
Thursday, April 10, 2008, 5:30 p.m., Seattle Art Museum
1st Ave and Union St.  Free with museum admission.  All ages.

Tom Varner is a composer and jazz French hornist with 11 CD’s out as a leader, and he plays on over 70 others. After 26 years in NYC, he moved with his family to Seattle in fall 2005. About his new work, Tom Varner tells SJS:

Finally, my tentet piece that I’ve been working on and obsessing about for over 5 years now, will be premiered at 5:30 p.m., Thursday April 10, as part of the Earshot monthly series at the Seattle Art Museum. The work was begun in earnest at a wonderful three-week stay at the MacDowell Arts Colony in winter 2003, and I’ve been working on it ever since.  (I was in the same snow-covered cabin where Leonard Bernstein worked on his “Mass,” as well as fellow composers Meredith Monk, Fred Hersch, Bobby Previte, and Aaron Copland).

The title of this 13-part cd-length piece is “heaven and hell” –as in the “heaven” of being in the moment with my two kids, especially enjoying my time with them here in Seattle, and the “hell”  of our planet’s last 6½ years—especially the hell of parents (and kids) of soldiers, whether in Iraq or elsewhere. The older we get, life seems have more and more of that “combo platter,” and this piece is a kind of musical reflection on that duality. The piece is also a look back the “extreme emotional state juxtaposition” of being NY’ers on 9/11/01, while preparing to go to Hanoi in nine days to adopt our beautiful son, Jack. (In the end, it all worked out, and we adopted our daughter Hope in ’04, and having moved to Seattle in ’05, here we are, a Seattle family now.)

Musically, “heaven and hell” began as an idea to “double” my working quintet into a tentet as a way to add more timbres and complex vertical harmonies, reflecting my love of Messaien, middle-Miles, and Mingus. It has evolved to a wind octet plus bass and drums—a transparent chamber group that can breathe together, improvise, play jazz and new music, and NOT just be a “small big band,” although I hope the group can continue as a working tentet that can play more Varner, Monk, Mingus, Lacy, and Ellington.

The SAM concert will feature ace NYC trumpeter Russ Johnson, and the best of Seattle’s jazzers and improvisers. We will record the work the following week, with the partial help of the Jack Straw Foundation, and it is planned for an OmniTone release.

With: Jesse Canterbury (clarinet), Saul Cline (soprano sax), Mark Taylor (alto sax), Eric Barber (tenor sax), Jim DeJoie (baritone sax), Russ Johnson (trumpet), Tom Varner (French horn), Chris Stover (trombone), Phil Sparks (bass), and Byron Vannoy (drums).

Earshot Jazz, Live Jazz, Seattle Jazz