Jazz trio to open Into the Music series with improvisational programming

Hanlon, Weiser and Kushmaul

Once is a mistake, twice is jazz.

The concept was popularized by Miles Davis, an American jazz trumpeter, and speaks to the improvisational aspect of jazz music. For bassist Kieran Hanlon, these are words to live by.

“You can never take yourself too seriously in jazz,” Hanlon said. “Jazz is wrapped in mystery, there is no perfection element to it. Even as the musician, you never really know what’s next. Some people may find all of the unknown parts to be stressful, but I think that’s what makes it fun.” 

In his first season as a member of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Hanlon, assistant professor of double bass and jazz at SUNY Fredonia, will join Brian Kushmaul, CSO principal percussionist, and Nick Weiser, pianist and SUNY Fredonia head of jazz studies, to perform “Swing into the Season with CSO,” at 8:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 7, on the Virtual Porch. The performance will open the weekly “Into the Music” with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra series.  

Hanlon, Kushmaul and Weiser will share an assortment of “jazz standards,” Hanlon said, created by one of the most classic settings for jazz music: the piano, bass and drums trio. 

“The trio creates a delicate balance,” Hanlon said. “The less people you have playing, the more responsibility you each have to make something bigger out of it. It’s a classic (combination) for a reason — it’s good. Really good.” 

Audience members are invited to request their favorite standards on social media up to 48 hours in advance of the concert, making improvisation both the theme of the night and the series a whole, regardless of whether or not jazz is involved. Weiser said musical improvisation requires a constant “unspoken dialogue” between musicians.

“The great thing about jazz is it’s a social music, it’s a collaborative music and it’s an improvised music,” Weiser said. “The three of us all trust that we share enough common ground musically that we can make something work, even if there is no discussion about it beforehand.”

The trio will perform live from Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. Hanlon said the absence of a live audience will require more “deliberate energy” on the trio’s part, an energy he thinks they can give knowing the program is being catered to the audience’s requests. 

“I think there is still an ability for us to speak to the interests of the audience, even if it’s not in real time,” Hanlon said.“We are exploring different ways of interacting with the people we are performing for and that allows us to learn something new, too.” 

“Into the Music” with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will feature individual members of the CSO every Tuesday of the season. In past seasons, the series entailed a shorter concert with no intermission. The extra time was saved for the end, in which the conductor and guest artists would regroup on stage to answer audience questions. 

Vice President of Performing and Visual Arts Deborah Sunya Moore said the virtual components mean a different organizational approach, but the mission statement remains the same. 

“We tried to take a twist on that original format to focus this time on the musicians in the orchestra themselves,” Moore said. “We wanted to surprise people with their talents and their additional projects outside of what they may have heard before in the orchestra. It’s a combination that makes music personal, and that is what we have always set out to do in this series.”

Despite the challenges of going virtual, Weiser said the audience will still get a personal experience, adding that viewers and those playing go on a “brand new journey together.”

“It is really freeing to be an improvising musician,” Weiser said. “When you look at the past four months in the midst of this pandemic, everyone has had to improvise their way through this. I feel like it provides a really exciting opportunity to interact in countless different ways with the people you’re making music with and the people you make it for. It keeps things fresh and exciting, a feeling we need now more than ever.”

Tags : Brian KushmaulChautauqua Symphony OrchestraKieran HanlonNick WeiserSwing into the Season with CSO

The author Jamie Landers

Jamie Landers is entering her third season as a reporter for The Chautauquan Daily, covering all things music-related within the online platform. Previously, she recapped the Chautauqua Lecture Series in 2019 and the Interfaith Lecture Series in 2018. In addition, she is a rising senior at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in Phoenix, Arizona, where she most recently served as a breaking news reporter for The Arizona Republic, as well as a documentary producer for Arizona PBS.