Gunther Schuller: Concertino for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra


Concertino for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra


Gunther Schuller


Journey Into Jazz (BMOP Sound 1004)

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Tom Beckham (vibes), Bruce Barth (piano), Ed Schuller (bass), George Schuller (drums),

and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose


Composed by Gunther Schuller


Recorded: Jordan Hall, Boston, October 10, 1999 (CD released in 2008)


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Jazz history moved too fast in the middle decades of the 20th century. Developments that had played out slowly in the history of classical music, unfolding leisurely over 30 years or more, hardly had that many months to strut their stuff in the jazz world, before being ushered off center stage to make room for the next new thing. Jazz critics and fans wanted transcendent breakthroughs, and moreover wanted another one every year.

As a result, Gunther Schuller's Third Stream -- a merging of the two preexisting streams of classical music and jazz -- is now seen by many as some passing fad that came and went. Yet the principles of Third Stream are as valid today as when Schuller coined the term back in 1957, and the potential of an ongoing rapprochement between these two musical perspectives is undiminished. Moreover, the music the Third Stream produced during its first blossoming, such as this Concertino from 1959 (recorded in this version in 1999 and released on a 2008 CD), continues to serve as eloquent testimony to Schuller's vision.

Schuller's Third Stream compositions sometimes veered more closely to the classical side, while other of his works took on a more pronounced jazz perspective. The Concertino for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra emphasizes the jazz side of the House of Schuller. This is also the household of Schuller to some extent, with sons Ed and George contributing their considerable talents to the ensemble, alongside pianist Bruce Barth and vibraphonist Tom Beckham. The music offers wide scope for improvisation, and these players rise to the occasion. But the underlying structures are full of interesting twists, such as the fresh take on 5/4 from the opening movement or the unconventional 13-bar blues of the "Passacaglia." All in all, this performance demonstrates the ongoing health of Third Stream, not just as a label or theory, but as a body of inspired music that merits our attention to this day.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

Related Links

The Dozens: Twelve Essential Third Stream Performances by Alan Kurtz

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