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Darrell Katz

Composer Darrell Katz is widely known for being the director of the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra (JCA), but his compositions go beyond contemporary big band bebop and swing jazz principles. His compositions have the heart and breathing apparatus associated with theatrical pieces, which relate to people’s daily lives in a surreal way. Katz’s latest offering with the JCA is The Same Thing from Cadence Jazz Records, showcases different sources of inspiration including Sherwood Anderson’s novel, Winesburg, Ohio and the poetry of Katz’s wife, Paula Tatarunis. Katz incorporated Tatarunis’ poetry into JCA’s previous record, The Death Of Simone Weil which was released in 2003. Vocalist Rebecca Shrimpton once again recites Tatarunis’ text, and additional vocals are featured by special guest Mike Finnigan. The album quilts socially relevant stories into a tapestry that runs for miles and miles delivering pertinent messages through the medium of music.

The music and words of "December 30, 1994" shows the darkness and pain that unfolded on that date when a gunman shot seven people at two Massachusetts women’s health clinics. It is surreal how a perfectly calm day could suddenly change into bloodshed and havoc, and Katz’s compositions explore these opposing atmospherics. Sometimes he ventures into the mindset of the ego as in the case of "I’m Me And You’re Not." The track mocks human narcissism and the increasing sentiment which individuals are showing that they are more important than others. Katz explains in the liner notes that the track was inspired by an altercation he had with record producer, Maurice Starr who double parked his car against Katz’s car in front of a music store in Boston. Trombonist Bob Pilkington and guitarist Nick Zocher construct universally known motifs that depict an argument and the calm that hits after a storm. Each track is lengthy and courses through a number of changing scenes which take listeners along an elaborate maze.

"Like A Wind" is inspired from Sherwood Anderson’s novel, Winesburg, Ohio and Katz’s arrangement of bluesman Willie Dixon’s tune "The Same Thing" both express sentiments that are raw and emotive with sections that are nicely polished. Vocalist and keyboardist Mike Finnigan delivers a gritty performance in the title track "The Same Thing" that harks back to his past as an underground rock legend having recorded with Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Katz pays tribute to the late R&B luminary, Ray Charles with "Everybody Loves Ray Charles" using shades of gospel, blues, and big band swing suspended by a freestyle rapport. For the final track "Lemmings," Katz simply says in the liner notes that it is dedicated to everyone who voted for President George Bush.

Darrell Katz co-founded the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra. Some of JCA’s releases have been Dreamland (1992, Cadence Jazz Records), The Death Of Simone Weil (2003, Innova), In Thru & Out (2004, Cadence Jazz Records), and Celebration Of The Spirit (2006, CIMP). Katz has written over 50 pieces for jazz orchestras, and has worked and/or formed the Darrell Katz Dreamland Orchestra, the Henry Threadgill Windstring Ensemble, Orange Then Blue Marimolin, and True Colors in addition to the JCA Orchestra.

In 2001, the JCA instituted the Composers in the Classroom Program, sending resident jazz composers into Boston-area elementary schools to help students develop and apply skills in composition and improvisation. The program has been effective just as Katz’s compositions have been effective in opening people’s minds to issues which have caused havoc in society. The messages in the album are based on society’s need to act with common sense and to respect each other’s space, and yet, these are qualities which go on being overlooked.

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  • Artist / Group Name: Darrell Katz
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