Berklee Today: Julian Joseph '89
It's a steamy July night in London, but it's cool inside the famed Guildhall where 900 people await the appearance of pianist, composer, and bandleader Julian Joseph '89. To an American, the massive Great Hall inside Guildhall, the locus of London's city government since the Middle Ages, seems an unlikely setting for a big band jazz concert. The historically rich edifice—with its 60-foot-high ceilings, stained-glass windows, and statues of such national heroes as Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, and Winston Churchill—is a site where royalty and state visitors have been entertained for centuries. Tonight, Joseph, who has attained the stature of jazz royalty in Britain, is doing the entertaining. The demographically diverse audience will be treated to a couple of jazz chestnuts, Joseph's original music (including a three-part extended composition titled The Great Sage), and his jazz rewrite of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.
Once the music begins, the admixture of history, tradition, and current ideas visible in the surroundings is mirrored in Joseph's program and the setting seems appropriate after all. Joseph gives a nod to the jazz tradition through his arrangements of tunes by Monk and Ellington. And while he taps contemporary rhythms and compositional ideas, for the most part the heartbeat of his music is a driving swing groove. Joseph plays melodies and solos and jumps up from the piano to conduct concerted passages. He deftly guides his 19-piece ensemble through a vibrant performance that ultimately brings the audience to its feet demanding an encore.