Alan Ferber Nonet: Roots & Transitions

Alan Ferber Nonet: Roots & Transitions

Musicians:

Jon Gordon – alto & soprano sax
John Ellis – tenor sax
Charles Pillow – bass clarinet
Alan Ferber – trombone, composer & arranger
Scott Wendholt – trumpet (1, 2, 4-7)
Shane Endsley – trumpet (3 & 8)
Nate Radley – guitar
Bryn Roberts – piano
Matt Clohesy – bass
Mark Ferber – drums

Recorded May 28 & 29, 2015 at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY
Engineered by Joe Marciano, Max Ross
Mixed by Brian Montgomery, NYC
Mastered by Randy Merrill at Sterling Sound, NYC
Producer: Alan Ferber
Executive Producer: Francois Zalacain
Graphic Design & Photography by Christopher Drukker
Label: Sunnyside Records

Description:

A few months after trombonist/composer Alan Ferber released his last album, March Sublime, his wife Jody gave birth to their first child, a son named Theo. The news of March Sublime’s nomination for a 2014 Grammy Award was shared on social media, garnering one particularly memorable comment from a fellow musician: “All this time I’ve been thinking having kids was BAD for a career. You have proved otherwise!” An undoubtedly well-meaning comment, it nevertheless made Alan more sensitive toward how he would reconcile his new life as a father with the demands of creating original music. The need to confront this balancing act quickly became a reality when Alan was awarded the New Jazz Works grant from Chamber Music America to create a 60-minute original piece.

There is nothing like the birth of a child to make a new parent reexamine, well, everything. Over the first several months of his son’s life, Ferber became intrigued and engrossed by the process of human growth and development, seeming to cycle through periods of relative calm and “rootedness,” versus periods of “transition” involving tension, chaos, and rapid change.

Ferber noticed how these cycles correlate with his own growth as a composer. His new work, Roots & Transitions, written for his Nonet, is an exploration of these ideas through the process of crafting music. In Roots & Transitions, Ferber begins with tiny cell musical motives, and through the movements, drives them through cycles of calm/rootedness versus turbulence/transition, allowing the overall composition to run parallel to the growth and development unfurling in his personal life.

After several years of focusing on big band writing, Ferber’s return to his long-standing Nonet allows a more subtle interaction between individual parts, creating increased intimacy in this intricate new work. For the past 10 years, Ferber has led his Nonet made up of five horns and four rhythm instruments, represented here by either Scott Wendholt or Shane Endsley on trumpet, alto saxophonist Jon Gordon, tenor saxophonist John Ellis, bass clarinetist Charles Pillow, guitarist Nate Radley, pianist Bryn Roberts, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Mark Ferber. The size of the ensemble allows for a wide variety of tonal colors and textures while being more lithe than a big band.

With the deadline of a year to write, Ferber began to compose for his new project, though in a different way than he used to. His new responsibilities as a father cut down the time he once had available for devoting equal attention toward both the trombone and the piano (his main compositional tool). He began to try something new: writing music away from the piano and focusing on the trombone as his vehicle for composition. Though arduous at first, this approach ultimately led him to simpler, more direct “seed” ideas from which to spin out more developed song forms, rhythms, and harmonic structures. A trombone-centric approach to writing involves the intimate act of bringing your lips into contact with a piece of metal in order to produce sound through vibrations. The compositional advantage of this is that it allows you to both hear and feel what you are creating. The wide range of moods and physical conditions he found himself cycling through directly impacted what came out of his horn and thus greatly affected the arc of Roots & Transitions.

It took a year for Ferber to complete these pieces. There was a focused period of four months where most of the music took shape. Then there was a maturing process through a handful of performances and edits, after which the fully conceptualized piece was ready to be recorded.

As has been mentioned, the seed of this eight-movement work is a single melodic motif, rhythmically, a 3 feel over 4/4 time that recurs throughout. From that seed grows the entire work. There are dramatics from the beginning, as in the dawning “Quiet Confidence” and bombastic “Clocks.” The more traditionally jazz oriented “Wayfarer” provides an excellent counterbalance to the contemporary feel of “Flow,” which seems to blossom as it goes. The poetic “Perspective” is warm and well wrought and “Echo Calling” is hauntingly beautiful as it swells. The journey culminates with its most dynamic movement “Cycles,” which finishes unresolved, as the growing process never ends.

Many composers and writers talk about the process, referring only to their craft. There is also the process that all humans undergo, which informs the art just as much as the person. Alan Ferber has studied the effect of these two on each other and has created a tremendous work of art in his new Nonet recording Roots & Transitions.

released April 29, 2016

Reviews:

Downbeat Magazine

New York Times

Step Tempest

New York Music Daily

Kansas City Star

O Jazz Magazine-France

All About Jazz

New York City Jazz Record

Alan Ferber Nonet & Strings: Chamber Songs

Musicians:

Alan Ferber – trombone
Scott Wendholt – trumpet
Jon Gordon – saxophone
John Ellis – tenor saxophone
Douglas Yates – bass clarinet
Nate Radley – guitar
Bryn Roberts – piano
Matt Clohesy – acoustic bass
Mark Ferber – drums
Zach Brock – violin
Sara Caswell – violin
Olivia De Prato – violin
Leena Waite – violin
Victor Lowrie – viola
Corrina Albright – viola
Jody Redhage – cello
Maria Jeffers – cello
Ike Sturm – bass
J. C. Sanford – conductor

Recorded February 24 & 25, 2009 at Bennett Studios, Englewood, NJ
Mixed & mastered at Skyline Productions, Warren, NJ
Engineer: Paul Wickliffe
Producer: Alan Ferber
Executive Producer: Francois Zalacain
Release date: May 4, 2010
Label: Sunnyside Records

Description:

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 Diana Krall – 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.

The nonet, featuring tenor saxophonist John Ellis, guitarist Nate Ratley, 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.

Reviews:

Thomas Conrad’s appreciative review in the June 2010 issue of JazzTimes.
Thomas Conrad, JazzTimes – June 2010 read the full article

Very nice review by John Ephland in the September 2010 issue of DownBeat.
John Ephland, DOWNBEAT – September 2010 read the full article

Speak French? Check out the review in the Oct. 2010 issue of Jazz Magazine.
Eric Quenot, Jazz Magazine – October 2010 read the full article

Biography

Three-time GRAMMY-nominated trombonist-composer-arranger Alan Ferber has been called “one of the jazz world’s premier composers and arrangers for larger groups” by All About Jazz NY.  Jazz Times magazine describes Ferber’s compositions as “inspired and meticulous” and the L.A. Weekly deems him “one of the premier modern jazz arrangers of our time.”  For the last seven years, he has been recognized as one of the leading trombonists of his generation in Down Beat magazine’s International Critics’ Poll and Readers’ Poll.  Ferber was the recipient of a 2013 New Jazz Works grant from Chamber Music America, funded by the Doris Duke Foundation.  Since 2011, he has been an Adjunct Professor of jazz studies at New York University’s Steinhardt School

Ferber’s aesthetic prescribes a deep knowledge of the jazz tradition as a means toward meaningful innovation.  Appropriately, the Wall Street Journal describes his music as “somehow both old school and cutting edge.”  He has released eight albums as a bandleader, most recently, Jigsaw, for 17-piece big band (Sunnyside Records 2017).  Down Beat magazine listed it as one of the best CDs of 2017 and stated, “Ferber…demonstrates full mastery.  His big band belongs in the idiom’s current top tier.”  Jigsaw has also been nominated for a 2018 GRAMMY award for ‘Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.’  Prior to Jigsaw, Ferber released “Roots & Transitions”  in 2016, an eight-movement original piece for his working nonet, from which his composition Flow was nominated for a 2017 GRAMMY award for ‘Best Instrumental Composition.’   Ferber’s 2013 release for his big band on the Sunnyside label,  March Sublime,  features original compositions and arrangements and was nominated for a 2014 GRAMMY award in the ‘Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album’ category.  Prior to that, Ferber released “Chamber Songs-Music For Nonet & Strings” (Sunnyside) which received a coveted 4 star review in Down Beat and was named one the magazine’s “Best CDs of the Year.”

Ferber’s music draws from a broad stylistic base informed by the array of artists with whom he has closely worked.  In the jazz world, he has performed and/or recorded with Best New Artist GRAMMY-winner Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society, the Dr. Lonnie Smith Octet, the Ted Nash Big Band, Todd Sickafoose’s Tiny Resistors, MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenon’s Identities Big Band, the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, the Charlie Hunter Quintet, Michael Formanek’s Ensemble Kolossus, the David Binney/Edward Simon Group, the Lee Konitz Nonet, John Ellis’s Double Wide, the Dafnis Prieto Big Band, the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, and Don Byron’s Mickey Katz Project

He has worked extensively in other genres as well with artists including Peter Gabriel (Live at the Ed Sullivan Theater), Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens (Age of Adz & All Delighted People), The National (on Grammy-nominated Trouble Will Find Me), Dr. Dre, Harry Connick Jr, Michael Buble, and Beirut.  His discography lists over 150 CDs on which he has played trombone and/or composed and arranged music.    

Ferber’s accomplishments as a writer are equally diverse.  His recent work as a composer-arranger include ten 18-piece big band arrangements for Broadway star Shoshana Bean‘s new album, Spectrum; Two big band arrangements of Joni Mitchell compositions featuring vocalist Tutu Puoane with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra on their album, We Have A Dream. Two commissions ~ Kopi Luwak and Luteous Pangolin (Ben Monder) ~ written for the Atlantic Brass Quintet (and released on their 2014 album Crossover on Summit Records);  Big band arrangements of I Sing For You (Nancy King) and I Get Along Without You Very Well (Hoagy Carmichael), featuring GRAMMY-nominated violinist Sara Caswell and her sister, vocalist Rachel Caswell with the JazzMn Orchestra; Hyperballad (Bjork), arranged for the avant-classical music outfit Bang On A Can’s Asphalt Orchestra;  Farewell (Nelson Foltz) arranged for a recording with 8 trombones joined by acclaimed vocalist Rebecca Martin; nine arrangements for Korean Sony recording artist Youngjoo Song’s 2015 release, Reflectionnominated for Jazz Album of the Year at the 2015 Korean Music Awards; .

In addition to New York University, Ferber has also been on faculty at the John J Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music.  He has worked regularly on the faculties of several summer jazz programs including the Taipei International Summer Jazz Academy, the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Lafayette Summer Music Jazz Workshop, Cal State University’s Summer Arts Perspectives In Jazz program, and the Maine Jazz Camp.  He has appeared as a clinician and soloist with numerous universities including Stanford University, the University of Oregon, Cal State Northridge, Kansas University, the University of Miami, the Lawrence Conservatory, Middle Tennessee State University, and the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Alan Ferber Nonet: The Compass

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The Compass
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Luteous Pangolin
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Lucky’s Number
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Angel’s Landing
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Sundown

Musicians:

Alan Ferber – trombone
David Smith – trumpet
Will Vinson – alto & soprano saxophone
John Ellis – tenor saxophone
Douglas Yates – bass clarinet
Bruce Saunders – guitar
Bryn Roberts – piano
Alexis Cuadrado – bass
Mark Ferber – drums
Pete Rende – keyboard (track 1)

Recorded May 30 & 31, 2006 at Charlestown Road Studio, Hampton, NJ
Mixed & mastered at Skyline Productions, Warren, NJ
Engineer: Paul Wickliffe
Producer: Alan Ferber
Executive Producer: Jordi Pujol
Release date: April 12, 2007
Label: Fresh Sound New Talent

Description:

With The Compass, trombonist Alan Ferber cements his reputation as one of the jazz world’s premier composers and arrangers for larger groups. Why Ferber’s work, as well as his band, does not have a higher profile is a mystery. This is music that deserves to reach a much wider audience, period.

Ferber’s vehicle is his nonet, which has remained stable since the release of Scenes From An Exit Row (Fresh Sound New Talent, 2005); a compliment in itself. However, instead of just being a means to support his excellent soloing, the nonet is a giant feedback loop. Ferber not only writes for these specific players, who audibly respond with enthusiasm and vigor, but also encourages them to arrange their own music for the band. Furthermore, when inevitable substitutes sit in, he reaches out to bring their music into the band’s book.

Thus, the nonet is a scene within the scene, with a personality that admittedly is led by Ferber, but with large contributions from its members. On Exit Row, Ferber’s music was compared to a “mellower, less quirky Either/Orchestra,” but now any comparisons need to bring in the grande dame of large group composer/arrangers, Maria Schneider.

While their music differs in their main characteristics, Ferber now exhibits as much control in creating a specific sound as does Schneider, who has almost double the forces at her command. This comparison is most apt during the numerous choir sections, with part writing that stands out for its overt beauty with a sound that seems much bigger than possible. However, while Schneider’s music is almost pure emotion translated into gorgeous music, Ferber remains firmly rooted within the swinging, cool, belt-it-out, abstract jazz world.

Alan Ferber Nonet: Scenes From an Exit Row

Scenes CD cover

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New View
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Scenes From and Exit Row
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Reunion
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Get Sassy
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Jigsaw
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Long Lost
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Filín
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Kayak

Musicians:

Alan Ferber – trombone
David Smith – trumpet
Will Vinson – alto & soprano saxophone
John Ellis – tenor saxophone
Douglas Yates – bass clarinet
Bruce Saunders – guitar
Bryn Roberts – piano
Alexis Cuadrado – bass
Mark Ferber – drums
Akiko Pavolka – voice (2&8)

Recorded August 30 & 31, 2004 at Charlestown Road Studio, Hampton, NJ
Mixed & mastered at Skyline Productions, Warren, NJ
Engineer: Paul Wickliffe
Producer: Alan Ferber
Executive Producer: Jordi Pujol
Release date: July 11, 2005
Label: Fresh Sound New Talent

Reviews:

“Alan Ferber joins the new resurgence of talented young trombonists with vision and leadership. This debut reveals not only solid group musicianship but also high compositional work. Ferber plays his horn trombone with a voice that is robust, warm, and commanding. But the strength is in his writing and how he effectively navigates the ensemble of skilled musicians in executing multicolored music anchored by big horns, modern arranging, and a tight band. Intricate details such as the use of voice with the music on the title composition, the big band swing sound of “Reunion,” and a nasty blues shuffle on “Get Sassy” adds to the enjoyment.”

– Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz

Alan Ferber, a five star trombonist, composer, arranger and leader has a voice that is always articulate and in this release he keeps in the right balance all the way through has created (along with the others) some wonderful tracks. “New View,” “Scenes From An Exit Row,” “Reunion,” “Get Sassy,” “Jigsaw,” “Long Lost,” “Filin” and “Kayak” surprises us with this spring of bright talent in each composition and arrangement.

His trombone blows through the improvisations and compositions always leading gracefully. This hornman fluctuates from cool to unexpected free playing on “Scenes From An Exit Row” and “Reunion,” then to some mainstream blowing on “Long Lost.” Check out how he displays his sense of swing in “Kayak.”

“New View,” “Scenes,” “Get Sassy” and “Long Lost” are well structured as jazz or classical. “Jigsaw” is definitely a funk piece. Ferber is without a doubt a great arranger, composer and orchestra director. His talents as trombone player are just one gift more.

As a top level leader, Ferber knows how to free the band up to make them whole and then finally adding his print …. staying discreet. Alan Ferber’s music displays emotion and harmony. In “Scenes from an Exit Row,” he shines as the star he is. It is well orchestrated and has great cohorts. This trombone player is somewhere now in Brooklyn making a new world with his music, and soon… certainly throughout the whole world in a place that perhaps he does not even imagine.

5 Stars, Jazzreview.com  – Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez

Scenes From An Exit Row is full of great playing and writing, and cuts a pretty wide stytlistic swath. Ferber makes compelling use of less often heard colors like wordless vocals and bass clarinet. The tunes range from modern sounding multiple meter grooves, to Mingus flavored textures, and even pretty straight up bebop. Despite the stylistic range, this recording doesn’t sound like a demo or an aural calling card. It has a nice flow as a larger unit, and is an enjoyable and rewarding listen.

Scratchmybrain.com  – Jeff Albert