Music for Nonet and Strings

by Alan Ferber

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1. The River (Jarrett)
2. Interlude (Ferber)
3. Paradox (J. Gordon)
4. Magnolia (Ferber)
5. Fables (B. Roberts)
6. Ice Cave (Ferber)
7. Union Blues (Ferber)
8. Sedona (Ferber)
9. In Memoriam (Monder)

CD Quality - 16 bit / 44.1 khz

The nonet format holds a special place in jazz. The format produces the wide array of voices and colors of a big band, while maintaining the tight, quicksilver unity of a small ensemble. Miles Davis and Gil Evans put the format on the map with their historic 1948-50 Birth of the Cool recordings. The Oakland, CA-born, New York-based trombonist/composer/bandleader Alan Ferber – one of the scene’s most in-demand session players, as evidenced by his work with Charlie Hunter, Kenny Wheeler, and Don Byron – has advanced the nonet forward into the twenty-first century with his own nine-piece aggregation. His Sunnyside debut, Chamber Songs, is his latest installment in the evolution of the genre, with the augmentation of strings, inspired by his cellist wife.

“…Jody clued me into an alternative world that exists on the fringe of the more conventional orchestral realm,” Ferber writes in the CD liner notes. “I began hearing strings used in more improvisatory contexts, highlighting a broad palette of rhythmic and textural possibilities that I found refreshing. After immersing myself in these sounds for an extended period, I naturally became more inspired to incorporate them into my own music.”

The nonet, featuring tenor saxophonist John Ellis, guitarist Nate Radley, and bass clarinetist Douglas Yates, and augmented by a fluid and formidable string ensemble conducted by J.C. Sanford, unveils nine selections that sonically symbolize a true marriage of notes and tones in complete harmony. Ferber’s arrangement of Keith Jarrett’s “The River” leads off the CD on an elegiac, Aaron Copland-like inspirational note. Bryn Robert’s elegant piano weaves into an evocative, dream-like opus, “Interlude,” followed by the martial drum rhythms and flying strings of “Paradox,” and contrasted by the swinging ballad “Magnolia,” featuring violinist Sara Caswell. “Fables” is a zesty, waltz-like number, while “Ice Cave” evokes a spectral, foreboding landscape dotted by tribal drums and haunting woodwinds, followed by the bluesy, Mingusian “Union Blues,” and the dancing “Sedona.” The CD closes with “In Memoriam,” with strings wrapping the singing horns in a serene sound-carpet concluding this marvelous recording with a fitting postlude.

“Since these players thrive in New York’s creative music scene, I wanted to tap the potential of their open-minded aesthetic,” Ferber writes. “They are able to stylistically turn on a dime throughout this set, improvising a haunting texture on ‘Ice Cave,’ adding rhythmic intensity to ‘Paradox’ and ‘Sedona,’ and blending beautifully as a chamber orchestra with the horns on ‘The River’ and ‘In Memoriam.’”

Ferber’s broad artistic vision comes from his deep musical background. Born in Oakland in 1975, Ferber grew up in a family of musicians. He started his musical career in Los Angeles, after graduating from UCLA in 1997 with an Economics degree. He performed with Les Brown, Bob Florence, Kenny Burrell, Gerald Wilson, Louie Bellson, Jack Sheldon, Woody Herman, Brian Setzer, Vinny Golia and Bobby Caldwell. Ferber moved to New York two years later, and worked with a wide array of artists, including Charlie Hunter, Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, Don Byron, Bennie Wallace, John Hollenbeck, Harry Connick Jr., Nancy Sinatra, Diana Krall, They Might Be Giants, Kelly Clarkson, Dr. Dre, Michael Buble and Paul Anka. Ferber also performed in Broadway shows, including, The Producers, Fosse, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Ragtime. He has appeared on TV shows including Late Night with David Letterman, the Tonight Show, The View, Beverly Hills 90210 and Good Morning America. His recordings as a leader include Scenes from an Exit Row (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2005) and The Compass (Fresh Sound, 2007). Ferber’s educational experience includes residencies at the Gremio das Musicas Jazz Workshop in Portugal, the Bar Harbor Brass Week, the Maine Jazz Camp, the Guimarais Jazz Festival and the Lafayette Summer Music Workshop. He is currently on the jazz studies faculty at Montclair State University.

Integrating strings with a jazz nonet requires a broad knowledge of musical idioms to make it work. As Chamber Songs aurally illustrates, Alan Ferber does just that. “The addition of a string ensemble creates a vast landscape of new sonic possibilities. Coupled with the nonet, they add a layer that is both distinct and transparent,” Ferber writes. “They can emotionally lift an ensemble passage as well as provide a soloist with full-sounding backgrounds that never overpower. I strove to weave the strings into the creative fabric and make them an integral part of the compositions …”


released May 4, 2010

Alan Ferber - trombone
Scott Wendholt - trumpet
Jon Gordon - alto, soprano sax
John Ellis - tenor sax
Douglas Yates - bass clarinet
Nate Radley - guitar
Bryn Roberts - piano
Matt Clohesy - bass
Mark Ferber - drums
JC Sanford - string orchestra conductor
Zach Brock - violin
Olivia De Prato - violin
Sara Caswell - violin
Leena Waite - violin
Corrina Albright - viola
Victor Lowrie - viola
Jody Redhage - cello
Maria Jeffers - cello
Ike Sturm - bass


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