ITHACA, NY — Rhythm & Brass — a sextet known for its startling reinterpretation of familiar forms — will give this year’s performance at the annual Shirley and Chas Hockett Chamber Music Series at Ithaca College. The free concert will take place on Monday, Feb. 14, at 8:15 p.m. in Ford Hall in the James J. Whalen Center for Music. Named after two longtime educators and musicians, the series honors the Hocketts’ love of music and devotion to Ithaca College and its School of Music.
Ranging from the music of des Prez, Bach and Debussy to John Coltrane, Radiohead and Pink Floyd, Rhythm & Brass’s program’s selections reflect what the New York Times called “. . . the intelligent spunk that used to be associated with the best New York jazz of the 1970s and 80s. . . . [Rhythm & Brass] has a brash way of working fast and loose on music of high conceptual content.” And, because the concert will take place on Valentine’s Day, the program will offer its fair share of romance.
“We will likely play a few Beatles love songs that are off of our ‘Sitting in an English Garden’ recording,” said Alex Shuhan, associate professor of music performance at Ithaca College and the horn player for the group. “Also, one of the main works on the program will be ‘Temporary Heartbeat,’ a mélange of tunes from Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ along with references to David Lynch's movie ‘Wild at Heart.’ Plus, since Feb. 14 also happens to be my wedding anniversary, we’ll be playing a tune I wrote for my wife called ‘For Liz.’ And finally, Mike Titlebaum — saxophonist and director of jazz studies at IC — will perform as guest soloist on a piece written by Grammy Award–winning composer Maria Schneider for Rhythm & Brass entitled ‘Divided By Two.’”
Composed of performers who are also actively involved in music education, Rhythm & Brass made its New York concert debut at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1994 with celebrated jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker. In addition to concerts in North America, the Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean and Australia, the ensemble has performed commissioned works at numerous convention venues, including Chicago’s Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Clinic, the national convention of the Music Educator’s National Conference and the International Trumpet Guild Conference.
Like the public performances, the group’s CDs reflect Rhythm & Brass’s ability to find the common thread across a range of musical genres. In addition to jazz compositions from the ensemble’s members, the CDs include works from 17th-century composer Samuel Scheidt and a tribute to Duke Ellington, which Entertainment Weekly called “smart and deliciously off center.”
In addition to Shuhan and 1989 alumnus David Gluck (percussion), Rhythm & Brass members are Charles Villarrubia (tuba), Rex Richardson (trumpet), Tom Brantley (trombone) and Wiff Rudd (trumpet).
Established as a permanent endowment in 2000, the Shirley and Chas Hockett Chamber Music Concert Series honors two longtime supporters of the School of Music. Chas, who passed away in 2000, enjoyed a distinguished academic career at Cornell University, from which he retired in 1982 as the Goldwin Smith Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Linguistics. Chas also had a passion for music, which he shared with his wife, Shirley, professor emerita of mathematics at Ithaca College, and with their five children. He wrote a number of works, including an opera, “Dona Rosita,” which was performed by the Ithaca Opera Association in the early 1970s. Chas also played the bass clarinet; Shirley was a clarinetist, and together they performed with the Ithaca Concert Band.
The Shirley and Chas Hockett Library of Ensemble Music in the Whalen Center was named in the Hocketts’ honor in 1999, and three years later, a second venue in the Whalen Center, the Hockett Family Recital Hall, was dedicated.
For more information, contact Molly O’Shea, marketing communications manager in the music school, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (607) 274-3370.
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