From blues and punk to rock and roll, Arthur White has at one point in his life played in nearly every kind of band, but now he believes he has finally found “the perfect gig.” As the director of MU’s Jazz Performance Studies program and Assistant Professor in the School of Music, White now handles all things jazz at MU.
A uniquely American art form, jazz grew out of many musical developments around the turn of the last century. What most sets jazz apart from other kinds of music is its complex improvisational content. Percussionist Lloyd Warden suggests that, if done right, jazz can express emotions better than the spoken word. “When you hear Charlie Parker play the alto saxophone or hear Ella Fitzgerald sing,” he explains, “the emotions are condensed and presented in a way that is a lot more accurate than just a conversation, reading a book, or watching a movie.”
White and the jazz students we interviewed share their stories about becoming interested in jazz. Reflecting on what jazz means to him today, saxophonist Jacob Hallman describes the ability to reach people through music: “It gives you an opportunity to communicate in something of a new language. You can say things through jazz that might not be as clear if you were trying to articulate them with words."
MU’s Faculty Jazz Ensemble was put together in order to help recruit talented new student musicians to study at an institution that is ripe for an explosion in jazz study and performance. The foursome includes Tom Andes on piano, Lloyd Warden on drums, Tim Havens on bass, and Arthur White on saxophone. White explains that "we’re communicating, we’re trying to tell stories, and we’re trying to move the music forward.”
From selecting charts and arrangements to planning the nitty-gritty details of rehearsals, considerable work goes into preparing for concert performance. “Sight reading is a very important skill,” remarks former director Leibinger, “and the more you sight read, the better you are going to get.” Being able to take a brand new score, and breathe life into the notes on the page is a wondrous thing. After a few weeks, they begin focusing on the harder parts. As concert day nears, the director and band must quickly determine how to spend the remaining practice time.
From sight-reading practice to concert performance, we trace a jazz composition to its final destination at the Missouri Theatre with former director Doug Leibinger and guest saxophonist Ron Dziubla.
The big concert occurred on a drizzly November evening in the Missouri Theatre and featured former director Doug Leibinger and guest saxophonist Ron Dziubla. While several jazz combos performed, this montage represents snapshots of the songs played by MU’s big band, including: “Boom Boom” (Bob Brookmeyer), “Liberian Suite (Dance #5)” (Duke Ellington), “Scooter” (Ron Dziubla), “The Macadam of Good Intentions” (Doug Leibinger), “Hole in the River” (Rob Dziubla), “Just Friends” (Raymond Davies, John Klenner, and Sam M. Lewis), “A Long Time Ago” (Bob Mintzer), and “Day by Day” (Sammy Cahn, Axel Stordahl, and Paul Weston).