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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Arts and Education
United States
New York
Saratoga, NY

Jazz Institute at Skidmore College

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 11, 2003
Saratoga, NY

About the Author:

Jazz Institute at Skidmore College

Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Gerald Zaffuts, Director, Jazz Institute

Sponsored by
Office of the Dean of Special Programs
Don McCormack, Dean of Special Programs
Sharon Arpey, Director of Community Education
& Summer Conferences
with Maria McColl, Sara Villagio, and Giacomo Smith

and The NY State Education Department
Mary C. Daley, Ed Marschilok, Nathaniel Phipps, Judy Peters, Marilee Urbanczyk, Brian Carucci, Tim Ferguson,
Kevin Dimmel, and Kathryn Kolarz

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 10 and July 11, 2003

For two days in July, I had the pleasure of immersing in the Skidmore Jazz Institute, on campus at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY. Led by the very dedicated Gerald Zaffuts, and championed by Dean of Special Programs, Don McCormack, this was a fantastic event for a NY Jazz enthusiast, as myself. Compared to the Ballet Residency (See Articles/Photos Ballet Hispanico Residency at Skidmore), this was a very relaxed and informal, yet highly professional series of technical, theoretical, historical, and composition workshops, rehearsals, and performances, with some of the most renowned Jazz musicians in performance, throughout this two-week Institute.

I was not on campus for the Terence Blanchard Septet, first Skidmore Faculty Sextet, Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, the Geri Allen Trio, or the later Jazz at Lincoln Center events on campus. However, I did attend the annual Jazz Institute Picnic at the home of Dean of Special Programs, Don McCormack, and his wife Judy McCormack (See photos from the picnic). I also attended student rehearsals, the final Skidmore Faculty Sextet, and the Jazz Participant Concert.

Skidmore Jazz Institute Staff:

Todd Coolman/Bass - A Grammy winner and Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at SUNY, Purchase, who holds a PhD in Music. He writes and researches Jazz History and performed and recorded with many renowned Jazz artists, such as Benny Goodman.

Vince DiMartino/Trumpet - A well-respected trumpet player, a soloist with Lionel Hampton, and Co-Founder of the Great American Brass Band Festival in Kentucky.

Curtis Fuller/Trombone - A legendary artist, toured with Dizzy Gillespie, member of Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet, and played with Miles Davis.

John LaBarbera/Trumpet and Composition - A Composer and Arranger, whose work was recorded by Count Basie and Woody Herman. He twice won the National Endowment for the Arts' Jazz Composition Award.

Frank Mantooth/Piano and Composition - Mantooth and his band have won nine Grammy nominations, and he has received commissions from Doc Severinson.

Hal Miller/Jazz History - Miller contributes to TV documentaries and collaborated with Ken Burns on the PBS Jazz series.

Ed Shaughnessy/Drums - A Longtime drummer for Doc Severinson, he recorded with Billy Holiday and Charlie Mingus.

Bob Sheppard/Saxophone - He has performed with Freddie Hubbard and is featured on Manhattan Transfer CD's. Sheppard toured with Chick Corea.

Also - Mark Beaubriand, Ryan Cohan, Chuck D'Aloia, and Bob Halek.

Faculty Sextet, Bernhard Theater, July 10, 2003: List of Performance Pieces - The Clan, Ambienz, Nice and Easy, Erica, Duo, Mello Tone, Liv.4U, Star Eyes, Strike Up the Band, Encore. This was an extremely well coordinated event, with the renowned Band members receiving tremendous audience accolades and encore calls. These musicians had been in residence with each other, on Skidmore's rustic Campus for almost two weeks, at this point, and, as a result, there were some liberties taken with extended riffs and improvisations, to the surprise, sometimes, of the other band members. Yet, these were positive and polished gestures that lent a smoothness and excitement to this concert.

A Duke Ellington piece was introduced by the drummer, and Strike Up the Band had a scat portion, as Coolman, on bass, joined for a duo. Erica was commissioned by John LaBarbera for his daughter, and was composed by Frank Mantooth on piano. It was mellow and melodic. This group of renowned performers showed extreme respect toward one another and intently focused on each other's solos. At times I heard dance music (as I tend to do), such as Foxtrot or Cha Cha. There were sultry ballads on saxophone, with seamless and endless, clear tones and trills. Coolman's bass was warm and full, with no sharp endings.

Skidmore Jazz Institute Faculty Concert

Skidmore Jazz Institute Student Rehearsal

Jazz Institute Participant Concert, Filene Recital Hall, July 11, 2003: Gerald Zaffuts, Jazz Institute Director, is to be commended for this outstanding performance by the many students, who had been carefully screened and chosen, from a pool of candidates, throughout the US and Canada. Eight Combos of Faculty and Students rehearsed in separate spaces in the AM and then performed in the early afternoon, bright and fresh and spirited, with pride and poise. Several pieces had been composed or arranged by the students, during this two-week Institute.

Vince DiMartino's Combo played Lotus Blossom, Comrade Conrad, and Giant Steps, with swing rhythms, strong bass participation, and group cohesiveness. Giant Steps, by Coltrane, had evocative piano leads. Curtis Fuller's Combo played Little Wind-Up Cars, Magic Girl (Vanishing Act), and Response to Curtis, with muted trumpet and a moody saxophone and piano, with tiny sounds that evaporate, as Vanishing Act, written by the student pianist, relates to a woman, who walks out. Response to Curtis was dynamic and upbeat.

Mark Beaubriand's Combo played Nice and Easy and In Walked Horace. I heard strong interchanges between Beaubriand's piano and the horns, with long trumpet solos. Frank Mantooth's Combo played People Make the World Go 'Round, Blue in Green, Mag's Stew, and The Five-Headed Rhythm Monster (group arrangement). This was a combination of student/faculty arranged or composed pieces. Blue in Green, arranged by Mantooth, had a classical theme, with a whispering, romantic, and bluesy tone, with effective bass.

Todd Coolman's Combo played Have You Met Miss Jones (Rogers and Hart) and Third Avenue. Two female participants were finally onstage, on piano and trombone, and the Rogers and Hart piece was very entertaining. Ryan Cohan's Combo played Steppin' Up, by Cohan, Walkin' the Duck, by Christopher Ziemba, a Jazz Institute Award Winner, and Green Dolphin Street. I heard Latin Salsa and playful Swing in this set, with important and vibrant percussion.

Bob Sheppard's Combo played Passion Dance, Child Is Born, and Suspone. Students respectfully switched places and stood aside to allow each other's solos and duets to be showcased, and the three female musicians (Most of the participants happened to be male) performed with aplomb on bass, alto saxophone, and trombone. John LaBarbera's Combo, for the final set, played Just in Time, In a Sentimental Mood, and Minority. This was full-fusion, progressive jazz, with the Ellington piece warm, slow, and melancholy. The Savoy-styled Swing allowed for non-stop drumming, which was a showstopper.

Skidmore Jazz Institute Student Performance

Kudos to Don McCormack, Dean of Special Programs, Gerald Zaffuts, Director of The Skidmore Jazz Institute, and Sharon Arpey, Maria McColl, and Sara Villagio, of the Department of Special Programs, for their tireless efforts and enthusiasm in orchestrating and organizing this productive and powerful Skidmore Jazz Institute.

Skidmore Jazz Institute Picnic

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