pianist Mike Longo teaches a university Masters Class on jazz as he bridges the gap between be-bop and the contemporary era, bringing the best traditions forward while also adding new innovations in rhythm and structure. Oasis, on the CAP (Consolidated Artists Productions) label, exemplifies this blending of old and new.
Longo brings impeccable credentials to the project — he started his career with Cannonball Adderly, studied under Oscar Peterson, became the pianist and musical director in Dizzy Gillespie’s band (and played regularly with Dizzy for 22 years), authored nine books teaching music, and performed onstage with countless top jazzsters over the years (Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Coleman Hawkins, Gene Krupa, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lee Konitz, Roy ‘Eldridge, James Moody, Buddy Rich and many others).
While Longo often records and tours with his own jazz trio, this larger ensemble began in 1999 and has recorded two previous albums, Explosion and Aftermath (which both topped South American jazz polls).
Longo’s ensemble recordings spotlight his big band arrangements and orchestrations.
Longo brings a unique background to the task. In addition to playing in large and small bands with Gillespie, Longo studied classical counterpoint and composition with Frank Fields and Hall Overton, and Longo was commissioned to write music that combined classical and jazz for’ Dizzy, James Moody and various symphony orchestras.
Often Longo orchestrates the backgrounds behind the solos, but other times his score directs certain horn players to play their own solo fills behind the written parts.
“Arranging is composing with someone else’s themes. Composing is arranging with your own themes. All I need is a theme, a motive, or a germ of a musical idea, and then I just let the music go where it will. My creative tools are melody, harmony, rhythm, counterpoint and form. As I begin to add parts for the various instruments, I can hear the orchestration start to come to life in my head. For example, I might take a line similar to what Charlie Parker would improvise and write it for the entire horn section.”
In addition to Longo on piano, the members of the New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble on this recording are bassist Santi Debriano, drummer Daryll Pellegrini, guitarist Adam Rafferty, vocalist Hilary Gardner and the extensive horn section. The trumpet players are Joseph Magnarelli, Gary Guzio, Freddie Hendricks, Waldron Ricks, Nabate Isles and Seneca Black. The saxophonists are Bob Magnuson, Lee Greene, Frank Perowsky, Matt Snyder and Claire Daly. On trombones are Sam Burtis, Bob Suttman, Eric Goletz, Curtis Fowlkes, Jonathan Greenberg and Don Mikkelsen.