For the first time ever, a collection of recordings by two MIT student musical groups — the MIT Wind Ensemble (MITWE) and the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble (FJE) — have been released on a CD by a major jazz label.
"Infinite Winds" from Sunnyside Records features works by noted composers Guillermo Klein, Chick Corea, and Don Byron. There are also guest performances by renowned tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry and clarinetist Evan Ziporyn, the Kenan Sahin distinguished professor of music and faculty director of MIT's Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).
“Massachusetts Institute of Technology hosts two of the best student-driven ensembles in the country,” Sunnyside Records wrote in announcing the CD’s April 14 release. “Infinite Winds presents a wonderfully broad range of musical styles from composers who have surpassed the limits of jazz and modern classical composing.”
Dedicated to the late great jazz trumpeter Herb Pomeroy, who taught at MIT for 22 years and founded the FJE in 1963, "Infinite Winds" features world-premiere recordings by Corea — an iconic keyboardist, composer, and bandleader who has won 22 Grammy Awards — and Byron, a critically acclaimed clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer as well as the winner of the first Doris Duke Performing Artist Award.
Original compositions for MIT's student musicians
Corea’s piece, "From Forever (Suite for Big Band Dedicated to Herb Pomeroy)," was composed in honor of the 50th anniversary of MIT’s jazz program, and premiered in April 2013. Soon after, the composition was performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Byron’s composition, "Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble," is an eclectic piece inspired by the film and television scores of Leonard Rosenman. “This is the first music for clarinet I have written that was difficult on purpose," Bryon said. "It's a piece in the tradition of great 20th century clarinet writing — Nielsen, Stravinsky, Corigliano, Martino, Bartok."
The third piece on the CD, "Solar Return Suite," is a work in seven movements, previously recorded in 2006. It is Klein’s first and only composition for wind ensemble. “The musicians at MIT were very good-hearted, smart, and willing — a pleasure to work with,” Klein said.
All three compositions were written especially for the MIT ensembles to perform. Commenting on the Institute's student musicians, Peter Child, head of MIT Music and Theater Arts, said, "At MIT, it is common to find students who are so musically talented they could thrive at conservatories, if that is what they chose to do."
Innovation in the arts at MIT
“As one of the world's leading science and engineering schools, cutting-edge innovation is MIT's calling card, and this also applies to music,” said Frederick Harris Jr., MITWE founder and current director of both MIT ensembles. “With this CD we have some of the brightest compositional minds on the planet creating unique compositions, performed by talented MIT students, along with world-class soloists; 'Infinite Winds' is a great example of what can happen when all such forces combine to create innovative, lasting artistic work.”
"Infinite Winds" is an MIT production in more ways than one — beginning with the contributors’ links to Pomeroy. Klein, a jazz pianist and bandleader, as well as a critically acclaimed composer, is a former student of Pomeroy’s and has been collaborating with Harris since the 1990s. Corea credits Pomeroy with helping him early in his jazz career. “Just as Chick [Corea] has influenced many young musicians during his illustrious career, he was himself inspired by the founder of the MIT jazz program — Herb Pomeroy," Harris said.
In addition, Klein and Byron have both spent time as artists-in-residence at MIT, with Byron having served as a 2007-2008 MIT MLK Visiting Professor. Notably, Ziporyn's solo performance on the clarinet impressed the composer. "Evan plays it with such flair," Byron said.
Second guest soloist, McHenry, is a frequent collaborator with Klein. “McHenry is among the best jazz saxophonists of his generation,” Harris said. “He walks the line on Guillermo's piece of having to play written material and improvise throughout the whole composition — and does it extremely well.”
A distinctive independent jazz and world music label, Sunnyside Records applauded the performance of MIT’s musicians, noting that the two ensembles highlight "all the nuances and dynamic vitality" of the works by Klein, Corea, and Byron.
Copies of "Infinite Winds" will be available for sale at the eighth annual Herb Pomeroy Memorial Concert, which takes place April 24 at 8 p.m. in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. For more information, contact Clarise Snyder: firstname.lastname@example.org.