Concertto benefit jazz festival

Published on Thu, Jan 13, 2005 by ack Kintner

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Concert to benefit jazz festival

By Jack Kintner

Bassoon player Martin Kuuskmann is hosting a benefit concert this Saturday night in support of the Pacific Arts Association’s annual summer Jazz Festival, and it promises to be a musical experience on a par with last September’s Northern Lights concert.

That evening New York Philharmonic principals Robert Langevin, flute, and Joseph Robinson, oboe, along with pianist Richard Bishop wowed the campus of Western Washington University with music that can only come from musicians who are the masters of their instrument and their craft. Not surprisingly, they all work in New York.

This coming Saturday night Kuuskmann welcomes pianist and composer Matt Herskowitz, a New Yorker now living in Montreal and someone whom the New York Times calls one of the most original jazz pianists and composers in the world.

Kuuskmann knows him from having played with him in a New York-based performance and recording group known as the Absolute Ensemble. Of variable membership depending upon the occasion and the music to be played, the group was nominated for a Grammy in 2002. “We did everything from Bach to Frank Zappa,” Kuusk-mann grinned, “and could, if people wanted us to, do an entire concert, two and a half hours, of either one.” Herskowitz also played the musical soundtrack for the animated film Les Triplettes de Belleville, which screened in Cannes in 2003 and won an Oscar the following year for best original song.

It’s Herskowitz’s classical background, and weaving of classical and jazz themes, that has him so much in demand. A Julliard graduate, he won the Pro Piano Recital Series Competition, which allowed him to make his New York City debut in Carnegie Hall in 1994. Three years later he won the Orford Festival Piano Competition that led to a recording of Glazun-ov’s Piano Concerto #2, a piece not often heard. He released his solo Gabriel’s Message, his own composition based on arrangements and improvisations of Christmas songs, and has also composed a chorale based on Dave Brubeck’s song “In Your Own Sweet Way.”

“The concert’s mostly bassoon and piano,” Kuuskmann said, “everything from Gershwin to an original composition from Daniel Schnyder, one of the summer faculty at the Jazz Festival this year, and music from South American composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.”

For an additional treat, Jazz Festival artistic director Ted DeCorso will join Kuuskmann for one number by French composer Poulenc, and some of last year’s festival students will perform Chameleon.
The 90-minute concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Blaine School District Performing Arts Center. Admission is by donation.