August 2010 Convention
Anaheim, CA

76 Trombones Jazz Flutes in the Flute Big Band!

At least 76 flutists showed up to play in the Jazz Flute Big Band Reading Session. The ensemble, which consisted of C flute, piccolo, alto, and bass flute sections, was accompanied by one of LA's top rhythm sections featuring pianist Andy Langham, bassist Chris Connor, and drummer Kendall Kay.

The entire group read through five jazz arrangements written expressly for this session, all of which offered ample opportunities for improvisation. The first arrangement, "Just Between Us," was an original piece by Al Hager, a veteran jazz arranger who hails from Florida. Kicking off the session with Hager's straight-ahead swing tune ensured that the ensemble was off to a great start! After conducting this opening piece, I invited the two arrangers present to conduct their own works.

Next up was jazz flutist/arranger Billy Kerr, one of the winners of the JFBB competition last August. Having already showcased two of his original pieces last summer, Kerr was asked to write two brand new arrangements for the Anaheim session: arrangements of Gabriel Faure's "Pavane" and Jimmy Giuffre's "Four Brothers," a standard from the jazz repertoire. Kerr re-invented Faure's work by turning it into a gorgeous bossa nova. As the 2010 NFA-commissioned JFBB arrangement, Kerr's arrangement of "Pavane" will be included in next summer's JFBB program in Charlotte.

Big band leader, jazz saxophonist/flutist, and arranger Roger Neumann (NFA convention director Madeline Neumann's husband) contributed two terrific arrangements for the reading session: "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," composed by Jerry Brainin and Buddy Bernier, and "Flute Madness," Neumann's take-off on Sonny Rollins' familiar jazz tune "Tenor Madness." (Neumann mentioned that he was so inspired to write for the jazz flute big band, he penned "Flute Madness" days before the convention, bringing it for the read-through the day of the session!)

Participating flutists ranged from classical players, such as Nancy Clew, leader of the Florida-based Space Coast Flute Orchestra, to LA-based session pro's, among them Sal Lozano, Phil Feather, and Brian Williams, to 2009 JFBB competition winners Alex Coke, 13 year-old "veteran" Zachary Kellogg, and Peter Westbrook (author of The Flute in Jazz and chair of the NFA's newly formed World Music Committee). California-based Lori Bell, Ken Sherman, and Jane Lenoir and Florida-based Marc Berner were among the many exciting soloists, too numerous to mention. It was also wonderful to see audience members such as jazz flutist Holly Hofmann, Victoria Jicha (editor of Flute Talk), Irene Pruzan (2011 Florida Flute Convention program chair), Madeline Neumann (NFA convention director), and Debbie MacMurray (chair of NFA Finance Committee) supporting the event with not only their enthusiastic presence but their cameras, too! It's evident that interest in jazz flute is on an upswing in the NFA!

The arrangements chosen for the reading session varied slightly from what appeared in the convention program book due to time constraints. I express my gratitude to all the arrangers who contributed charts for the session, to all the musicians who participated in the ensemble, to Gemeinhardt for its generous support of the event, and, above all, to the NFA for making it all possible.

—Ali Ryerson

photos by Deborah MacMurray and Brian Covington