Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra
Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra
For over 40 years, The Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra has been one of Michigan’s premier jazz ensembles, featuring some of the finest musicians in the area playing swinging original compositions and arrangements as well as traditional favorites.
The musicians that create the live sounds are some of the area’s best soloists, sidemen, and educators available. Many have jazz projects of their own, yet dedicate time to fostering the performance of live big band jazz.
The band was founded in 1976 by the late Bruce Early, and has performed with many famous artists such as Clark Terry, Louis Bellson, Phil Woods, Pearl Bailey, Kenny Wheeler, Randy Brecker, Maria Schneider, Allen Vizutti, Phil Wilson, Bobby Shew, and has been enjoyed by thousands of people at concerts, dances, and festivals throughout the region.
The GRJO performs for shows, concerts and private events and can be heard at Founder’s Brewery the 1st Sunday of every month.
GRJO Big Band Charts
Morning Star - Bob Taylor
Composer Robert Taylor wrote this as a dedication to his wife, Virgina. It starts as a beautiful ballad and then transforms into a lively swing tune.
While listening, you can picture Virgina and Bob’s love for her! This piece features the amazing flugelhorn playing of Matt Sumner.
Fanfare for an Uncommon Man
Arranged by: Bob Nixon
During my years of study in college, one of my favorite groups to listen to during my leisure time was Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.
This arrangement is loosely based on their performance of “Fanfare for the Common Man.” It is dedicated to Steve Talaga.
Snow Day - Joel Klamer
What kid doesn’t like a good snow day? Well, for those of us who are teachers, we have to admit that we love a good snow day, too. Written during a cold Michigan fall when schools had two snow days back-to-back before Thanksgiving, this piece is meant to capture all the excitement of a winter landscape and the knowledge that on this day, anything is possible!
Wiggle Worm - Robin Connell
Our son was a baby and we were at Interlochen for the summer, as usual. I frequently played one cassette tape I had of kids songs that a friend of mine had written, with my favorite being “Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle.” The opening phrase of the song is the opening phrase of Wiggle Worm, verbatim. It’s the first big band piece I wrote that is a pastiche based on phrases and motifs rather than a song form with a cohesive melody.
Eavesdroppin' - Steve Talaga
This one’s a conversation between the brass and the reeds. We’re listening in…eavesdroppin’.
The piece was initially commissioned by Robert Shechtman in the mid 1990s when he was directing the jazz band at Grand Valley State University. More recently,
I dusted it off, tweaked a few things, and brought it to a GRJO rehearsal. The band has been kind enough to put some new miles on it!
Under the Northern Cross
The Northern Cross is a constellation appearing in Michigan’s Summer night sky. “Under the Northern Cross” is my homage to our sublime Michigan Summers. My intent was to capture in music the feelings of awe I experience looking skyward on warm Summer nights. Many of my most profound experiences doing just that have been on camping trips with my two kids. So, it’s a tip of the hat to them, too.
Bop the Bopper - Paul Brewer
I composed and arranged “Bob the Bopper” in honor of GRJO bandleader and lead alto saxophonist, Bob Nixon. Bob is a fan of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series as delightfully revealed in his whimsical and clever arrangement, “Moose and Squirrel.”
“Bob the Bopper” is my homage to Bob’s affection for all things whimsical as revealed in the roller coaster-like “flying” of the melodic line. The musical quote at the end sums it!
Feijoada - Bob Taylor
Our friend and colleague, Robert Taylor, wrote Feijoada as a tribute to his days traveling throughout South America with the Peace Corps. The complex harmonies and rhythms are influenced by his travels and experiences.
Feijoada is a hearty black bean and mixed meat stew that is often called the national dish of Brazil. You can almost taste it while listening to this piece!
Pontaluna - Matt Sumner
Named roughly after the translated Portuguese word for “Moon Point,” it is also the name of a road that accesses beautiful brown-sugar sand beaches on the Lake Michigan shoreline.
A Latin flavor to this tune suits the scenery during hot summer months when taking a dive into the Lake is the only way to cool off! It features an extended form with trumpet and woodwinds highlighting the melody while a soli section pays tribute to Michigan jazz Trumpeter Rob Smith on a 1989 Bert Ligon recording of “Autumn Leaves.”
Bebop.com - Jim Martin
Bebop.com was written by composer Jim Martin for the University of Wisconsin @ Milwaukee jazz ensemble.
The composition is based on rhythm changes and features an open solo section for different soloists. Bebop.com includes some modern twists and hard swinging sections.
Writting during the days of the internet's early days when the dot com boom was all the rage!