Students Back McCoy Tyner in Montreal

Rob Hayes
June 19, 2008

The Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra (BCJO) will perform with iconic pianist and composer McCoy Tyner-one of the singular jazz artists of the modern era-at the Montreal International Jazz Festival on July 3 at 9:30 p.m. in the Theatre Jean-Duceppe, at 175 Ste-Catherine West. The program will be composed of Tyner's sprawling, expressive compositions for big band. The top student musicians of the BCJO will back Tyner's trio throughout the 90-minute program. They'll be joined by trumpet sensation and Concord Records artist Christian Scott, a 2005 Berklee graduate. Tickets are $48.50 CDN.

The Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra is comprised of 19 of the best and brightest young talents at the college. In addition to playing music by great jazz masters like McCoy Tyner, each semester the group debuts a brand new repertoire of original compositions that bend the jazz canon and utilize the many colors of a big band in new ways. Says director Greg Hopkins, professor of jazz composition at Berklee, "This is the premier jazz orchestra at the college, and it will be an honor for our students to perform McCoy Tyner's big band music with him. The students are pretty much beside themselves, preparing for this chance to play with one of their idols, in one of the world's premier music festivals."

Hopkins, who has played trumpet with artists including Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach, and Ella Fitzgerald, pulled together an amazing new BCJO for this performance. Like Berklee itself, the band represents a true melting pot of rich musical talent from around the world. Performers in this edition of the BCJO hail from Argentina, Japan, Scotland, Turkey, and from every corner of the U.S. The musical expression of the ensemble represents a unique fusion of the players' international and regional musical styles. Says Hopkins, "The breadth and depth of musical ideas that these students create is truly astounding."

The group was founded at Berklee in the 1950s by Hopkins's predecessor, the late Herb Pomeroy, and was known as the Recording Band for many years. Since its inception, it has been the place where the college's best jazz composers and arrangers bring their work. Toshiko Akiyoshi, Mike Gibbs, Arif Mardin, Quincy Jones, and Alan Broadbent have all written or arranged for the group. Band alumni include Joe Zawinul, Gary Burton, Gabor Szabo, Michael Mantler, Gene Perla, Ernie Watts, Miroslav Vitous, Harvey Mason, George Mraz, Billy Drewes, John Scofield, Bill Pierce, and Kenny Werner, to name just a few.