Throughout the season, Recital will be meeting with each of the artists and bringing you a brief profile of them and their work in the days before their opening performance. We will publish a considered review or a post-show discussion with the artists for each performance, developed from post-show discussions with a consistent panel of local experts in related disciplines. Additionally, Recital will slowly build a feature-length documentary investigating the CSA’s history and this current season’s performances.
In his Northside apartment, saxophonist John Petrucelli plays an audio file from his cell phone. A whistled melody backed by street noise springs from the tiny speaker. When the clip ends, Petrucelli grabs a nearby laptop and opens a file in Sibelius, a music notation program. The simple melody is now ensconced in digital strings, horns, and hi-hat. The arrangement adds depth and context to the melody. Completing this unique view of the life cycle of a composition, a week later in the upstairs rehearsal room of the New Hazlett Theater, a string quartet and a few members of Petrucelli’s jazz quintet are working through the arrangements for Presence, the second performance in the New Hazlett Theater’s CSA Series, which will be performed and recorded for release on Thursday, December 7 at the New Hazlett Theater.
Presence is a suite of compositions for jazz quintet and string quartet, an ensemble arrangement that is a new challenge for Petrucelli, but one that has echoes throughout jazz’s history. Big Bands of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s often employed string players, but Charlie Parker’s 1950 recording, Charlie Parker with Strings, legitimized the idea of pairing a jazz combo with a string section. Soon after, Clifford Brown, Paul Desmond, and Wes Montgomery all released albums with strings, mostly to great popularity. In more contemporary settings, the German ECM label, which was founded to bring the sound of classical music to jazz, has been releasing some fascinating jazz with strings albums with Eberhard Weber’s inventive The Colours of Chloe to Arild Andersen’s Hyperborean and Vijay Iyer’s stark Mutations.
“That’s been one of the big themes for me — jazz connecting with other genres,” says Petrucelli.