Harvard Alums Return to Celebrate 30 Years of Making Music

Harvard University will celebrate thirty years of educational programming in jazz—interaction between students and masters, the study of diverse literature, and commissions of world premieres—April 2-7, 2002. Tenor saxophonists Don Braden ’85 and Anton Schwartz ’89, and Thelonious Monk Award winner vocalist Sara Lazarus ’84 will be among the Harvard Jazz Band Alumni/ae to appear with the Harvard Jazz Bands. An April 6th concert will showcase a broad range of world premieres commissioned by the Office for the Arts over the years, from Carla Bley’s first work for big band format "Ups and Downs", to Buck Clayton’s "Harvard Swingster". The residency is presented by the Office for the Arts at Harvard and the Harvard University Jazz Band, and is funded in part by the Richard J. Scheuer, Jr. Fund.

On Wednesday, April 3, 2002 at 7:30 p.m. Learning From Performers will present an informal panel on "art after college" with guest artists and band respondents. It will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Reid Tonkens Room, Winthrop House, and is free and open to the public. A jam session will follow.

The alumni/ae guest artists will appear with the Jazz Band at a celebratory concert in Sanders Theatre on Saturday April 6, 2002 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the Harvard Box Office, $12, general; $8 students and seniors, call 617-496-2222 (TTY) 617 495-1642. Sanders Theatre is accessible. Free parking is available at Broadway Garage, corner of Broadway and Felton Streets.

The Jazz Program at Harvard was initiated in 1971 by Director of Bands Tom Everett and has been developed with the Office for the Arts since 1976. In 2001 Nathaniel Dickey joined Everett as Assistant Director. The goal of the program is threefold: to provide an opportunity for Harvard undergraduates to work directly with masters of the art form, to honor artists who have made a significant contribution to American music (often including the commission of new work), and increase public awareness of the artist’s music. "There is no substitution for intense involvement in an artist's creation and the insights provided directly by the artist," says Everett. Guest musicians—often isolated from the liberal arts environment—also benefit from this symbiotic educational experience.

A remarkable array of significant artists has played with the Harvard Jazz Band over the years, In 1980, Bill Evans, with John Lewis, performed one of Evans’ last concerts for the premiere of Lewis' "The Gates of Harvard." Carla Bley, who now arranges primarily for big bands, had her first commission in 1986 for that format at Harvard. Soon after a 1990 Harvard residency brought attention to trumpeter/arranger Buck Clayton, he received the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award.
Trombonist/composer J.J. Johnson's last works for brass were commissioned and premiered at Harvard in 1996. A later recording received two Grammy nominations. New works have also been commissioned from Steve Lacy, Andrew Hill, Steve Swallow, Benny Carter, and Anthony Braxton, among others. In April 2000, the Boston Globe wrote "Harvard University director of bands Tom Everett has been staging annual repertory events with guests artists for nearly three decades that often put the pros to shame in terms of conceptual ingenuity".

Over the years, the Band has focused on the literature of Duke Ellington and complete retrospective concerts of the music of Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Benny Carter, Buck Clayton, Clark Terry, and J.J. Johnson. Other literature has ranged from the classic arrangements of Count Basie and Fletcher Henderson to the modern jazz of Gil Evans and Charles Mingus, and the jazz-rock of Michael Gibbs and Carla Bley.

Harvard Jazz Band alumni/ae have remained active in jazz either by an occupation in music, through their children becoming involved, or by simply remaining jazz fans and supporters. According to Tom Everett, "Thirty ago there wasn't a course on jazz at Harvard; today the Afro-American Studies department has the Quincy Jones Visiting Professor of African-American Music. We have more students today seeking improvisational involvement than we have opportunities. We're going through a stage where the music is crossing into different disciplines—dance, visual arts—it is less isolated on campus than it was 30 years ago."

Visiting Artists in Jazz

Born in Cincinnati in 1963 and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, saxophonist Don Braden has been described by Roy Haynes as "…one of the new young lions of the tenor saxophone". At Harvard Braden studied engineering, played in the Harvard Jazz Band, and worked with the undergraduate community group Citystep. "Both as an undergraduate and as a professional jazz performer," Band Director Everett says, "Don Braden has retained an open mind to all influences and a genuine enthusiasm for the music". In 1984 Braden moved to New York City where his first gigs were with the Harper Brothers Quintet, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, and vocalist Betty Carter. After touring with the Wynton Marsalis Quintet, he recorded with Betty Carter on her Grammy Award-winning album, "Look What I Got" (Verve-Polygram). Following world tours with Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, and others, Braden was a member of the Freddie Hubbard Quintet from 1989 to 1991. Since then he has worked with Tom Harrell, the Mingus Big Band, Kenny Barron, J.J. Johnson, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and others, as well as with his own groups. Peter Watrous of the New York Times has described Don Braden’s playing as "…brilliant and assured…"

"Brighter Days" is Braden’s eleventh CD as a leader and features his working quartet: Xavier Davis on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Cecil Brooks III on drums. As a sideman he has recorded on nearly fifty CDs. His compositional work includes a number of independent films and four years as composer for the CBS sitcom "Cosby". He also co-wrote the theme for Cosby’s current CBS cartoon series, "Little Bill". Braden’s first big band composition/arrangement, "Landing Zone", commissioned by the Office for the Arts, will be featured at the Harvard concert. Braden serves as Music Director/teacher for Litchfield Performing Arts and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Jazz for Teens Program and also teaches at William Paterson University. He is the recipient of a Doris Duke Foundation (in conjunction with Chamber Music America) Jazz Composition grant for a new work for his Octet. His web site is at www.DonBraden.com.

While studying English literature at Harvard, Sara Lazarus ’84 played tenor saxophone in the Sunday Band and sang with the Monday Band. " When I first met Sara as a freshman, I knew she was heading somewhere special when she proudly acknowledged that she and Clifford Brown shared the same hometown, Wilmington, Delaware", recalls Tom Everett. She met Harvard Artist in Residence Illinois Jacquet who encouraged her to focus exclusively on music and invited her to sing with his big band. In her senior year, Lazarus won Downbeat’s award for "Best Jazz Vocal Soloist—College Division". After graduation Lazarus moved to Paris and began working in club and concert settings. She formed a quartet, drawing inspiration from Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, and Sarah Vaughan. In 1994 a panel that included Shirley Horn, Dianne reeves, and Jon Hendricks awarded Lazarus first prize at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition. "Miss Lazarus can swing and she enunciates well, " wrote Peter Watrous in the New York Times, "and she can improvise. She scatted a chorus of agile bebop ideas. Her voice was warm and supple." Lazarus returned to Paris to be with her husband and young sons, and continues to work with her trio throughout France. She has performed at the Marciac Jazz Festival and Paris JVC Jazz Festival, and on French television and radio. In 2000 she was joined bassist/arranger Patrice Caratini’s eleven-piece ensemble. The group recorded a live album and will tour with the Orchestre National d’Ile de France. Her first album for the Candid label is in preparation.

Anton Schwartz ’89, who held the Harvard Band’s first tenor sax chair after Don Braden’85 and before Joshua Redman’90, studied with Warne Marsh during college. In describing Schwartz as a young artist Band Director Tom Everett says, "Anton’s original compositions and unique tone are distinctive among today’s tenor’s". Born in 1967 in New York City, Schwartz earned a BA from Harvard in Mathematics and Philosophy. He then moved to the San Francisco area to obtain a masters from Stanford University. In 2000, he released "The Slow Lane" (AntonJazz AJ-1002), following his critically acclaimed debut album "When Music Calls". Both recordings feature his San Francisco-based ensemble of pianist Paul Nagel, bassist John Shifflett, and drummer Jason Lewis. Downbeat’s Dan Ouellette described "When Music Calls" as a "collection of captivating melodies…that swing with graceful elegance, effervesce with spirited vigor, and romance with soulful emotion"." Since 1994 Schwartz has taught at the Stanford Jazz Workshop. His saxophone playing was heard on the sound track of Mirimax’s 1996 "Albino Alligator," starring Matt Dillon and Faye Dunaway. Master saxophonist Illinois Jacquet said of Schwartz " you play the tenor sax like it’s meant to be played". His website is www.antonjazz.com.

The Office for the Arts maintains a non-circulating video and audiotape archive of visiting artists in jazz, which is available to students and scholars through the Morse Music Collection, Hilles Library, Radcliffe Quadrangle. For more information, call (617) 495-8676