GOOD musical compositions, and improvisations, relate a story to listeners. And, sometimes, they'll take listeners on a journey from the tip of South America to Canada's North.
The Longitude Project: Steve Kirby's Oceanic Jazz Orchestra offers both on May 25 as it closes Jazz Winnipeg's Nu Sounds Series at the Park Theatre.
The Third Stream project, which combines classical and jazz ideas, will be performed by a "pretty big band" of 14 musicians, says bassist Kirby, director of the jazz studies program in the University of Manitoba's faculty of music.
The orchestra brings together classical and jazz musicians playing compositions and arrangements representing musical styles such as the tango from Argentina, pan flute music from Peru and the samba from Brazil, as well as sounds from Bolivia, Panama and Mexico.
The geographical musical survey will include a collage of U.S. influences, a First Nations piece and Nunavut and Inuit throat singing.
Third Stream is a term coined by composer and educator Gunther Schuller in 1957 to describe the synthesis of classical and jazz into a new musical genre.
"It's natural," Kirby says. "Jazz comes out of classical."
All the music except one cover will be Kirby compositions, the bassist said. "Usually Third Stream is sterile; I'm trying to get the European side a little dirty."
Kirby plans a 22-piece repertoire for the band -- 11 from Winnipeg and 11 from longitudes from Argentina upwards -- but only 11 will be performed at the concert. The lineup includes two singers, oboe, cello, violin, bassoon, alto saxophone, trumpet, vibraphone, guitar, two pianists, bass and drums. There will be five tunes featuring the entire band and the rest will be performed by different combos.
Kirby has been composing music for the project for a year, with only five of the pieces written before March, the rest in a flurry since then.
He plans to release a couple of recordings by the project and shop the charts to orchestras for performances.
The U.S. band Pink Martini, which performs cross-genre, multilingual repertoire alone and with orchestras, was a major inspiration for the project, the bassist says.
The Longitude Project will be performed May 25 at 8 p.m. at the Park Theatre. Tickets are $12 at jazzwinnipeg.com, 204-989-4656 and at the Park.
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The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra's 2014-15 season includes a mix of local and international musical guests along with Juno Award winners and a nominee performing with the big band.
Indiana-based drummer Steve Houghton and U of M jazz professor and alto saxophonist Jon Gordon open the WJO season Oct. 25 and 26 with Matters of Time, featuring some of the best big-band repertoire of all time.
Vancouver-based composer and arranger Fred Stride and Winnipeg singer Heitha Forsyth are featured Nov. 8 and 9 in the classic Duke Ellington suite Black, Brown and Beige that details the history of African-Americans.
The WJO offers a swinging take on Handel's Messiah on Dec. 14 with Winnipeg singer Erin Propp, a 2014 Juno nominee for vocal jazz album. The concerts will include Oscar Peterson's Hymn to Freedom.
Winnipeg singer Martha Brooks celebrates the lyricism of Sammy Cahn and remembers her late husband, Brian, on Feb. 15 in All My Tomorrow: the Music of Sammy Cahn.
On March 22, Montreal guitarist Mike Rud and Toronto-based vocalist Sienna Dahlen return to Winnipeg after winning the 2014 Juno for vocal jazz album here in March. Their recording, Notes on Montreal, celebrates the city and they'll reprise the music in a big-band setting this time.
Popular Canadian pianist, bandleader and former senator, Tommy Banks, draws from his deep musical vault of big-band compositions and arrangements for his May 10 appearance.
The WJO features Sunday afternoon and evening concerts for each show (the first two add a Saturday evening concert) throughout its season.
Subscription information is available at 204-632-5299 and winnipegjazzorchestra.com.