From Paul de Barros’ Friday column in The Seattle Times:
Musician-composer Tom Varner’s “heaven and hell”: life’s highs and lows set to music
by Paul de Barros
Seattle Times Jazz Critic
“Heaven and Hell,” a major new work by French horn player Tom Varner, premieres Thursday as part of the Earshot Art of Jazz series at the Seattle Art Museum.
The title, said Varner in a phone interview, refers to the “hell” of having experienced Sept. 11 while living in New York, and the “heaven” of becoming a father, in particular when he and his wife flew to Vietnam nine days after Sept. 11 to adopt their son.
Easily the most highly regarded jazz French horn player in the world, Varner moved to Seattle two years ago and has been a wonderful addition to the scene.
“The older we get, we know life is more of a combo platter of heavens and hells we live through,” he said.
Varner started writing “Heaven and Hell” in 2003, during a three-week residency at the prestigious MacDowell Arts Colony.
“I sat there where Leonard Bernstein worked on his mass,” said the effusive Varner. “It was just a few cabins away from where [Aaron] Copland worked on “Appalachian Spring.”
The new, 13-movement piece is written for tentet — five reeds, three brass, bass and drums (no piano) — the largest ensemble he has written for and also his most ambitiously through-composed work.
In addition to Varner, the lineup features Jesse Canterbury, clarinet; Saul Cline, soprano sax; Mark Taylor, alto sax; Eric Barber, tenor sax; Jim DeJoie, baritone sax; Russ Johnson, trumpet (from New York); Chris Stover, trombone; Phil Sparks, bass; and Byron Vannoy, drums.
SAM Art of Jazz Concert Series:
The 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.