The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has been making music for almost 30 years — and this year, they have a unique new program for Chautauqua.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will begin its weeklong Chautauqua residency with a performance at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. This is the final performance of the season-long Chamber Music Guest Artist Series, featuring nine concerts for a small audience.
Chris Crenshaw, a Juilliard-educated trombonist, joined the famous jazz orchestra in 2006. For him, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s sound is built on a long series of individual voices.
“It’s a continuum of all the big names that have come up through the eras of jazz, especially the Duke Ellington Orchestra,” Crenshaw said. “Jazz at Lincoln Center has its own voice. We’re built on the musicianship of playing together and wanting to achieve the same goal, and to put on a good show.”
This is the orchestra’s second residency at the Institution. Like in 2016, the orchestra’s chamber music performance is a unique program developed especially for Chautauqua. It features jazz tunes from the 1920s and ’30s and swing music, including George and Ira Gershwin’s influential “I Got Rhythm” and Louis Armstrong’s “Savoyagers’ Stomp.”
Crenshaw serves as music director for today’s performance and selected the 10-song program to fit the performance at Lenna Hall. He said he looks forward to performing “Robbin’s Nest,” a slower, almost ballad-style jazz piece by Charles Thompson.
“It’s one of those pieces that kind of has everything,” Crenshaw said. “It’s sophisticated, and it has a bit of the blues as well.”
For Crenshaw, “Robbins’ Nest” is appealing for its complex style and emotional range.
“It’s one of our slower numbers, and it’s mostly a soft piece with a few exclamation points, if you will,” Crenshaw said. “There’s a lot of counterpoint in it as well; a lot of moving points going on at the same time. Overall, it’s one of those pieces that just makes you feel good. There’s a lot of everything in it, in terms of emotional quality.”
Crenshaw first became involved with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra when Wynton Marsalis saw him perform as a student.
“One thing led to another, … and it was perfect timing; everything came together,” Crenshaw said.
Marsalis, a New Orleans-born trumpeter and composer, title. While Marsalis will not be performing in today’s chamber concert, he has written extensively on the purpose of jazz performances. To him, jazz is an exercise in unity.
“Jazz shows us how to find a groove with other people, how to hold on to it, and how to develop it,” Marsalis wrote in his book, Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life.
Jazz at Lincoln Center has three key missions: to entertain, to educate and to advocate for the continued growth of the international jazz community. It leads several youth education initiatives, hosts annual gatherings for jazz musicians and produces an annual concert season.
To Crenshaw, the program’s missions are a mark of its longevity and continuity.
“Our mission is to entertain as well as educate and advocate,” Crenshaw said. “We’ve been about those elements for about 30 years. Members come in and out of the orchestra, adding their voices and making each night that we play better.”
Because of the expected demand for this concert, complimentary tickets are required, which are available at the Main Gate Welcome Center Ticket Office, which opens at 7 a.m. today