August 2018 Convention
Orlando, FL

Eleventh Swingin’ Jazz Flute Big Band Reading Session

Jazz Flute Big Band Reading Session with Ali Reyerson conducting

Ever since the NFA Jazz Flute Big Band reading session debuted in Kansas City in 2008, jazz flutists have been coming out of the woodwork to attend this event. It’s always a thrill to see so many new faces and hear so many talented jazz flutists—and this year was no different. This event continues to offer an opportunity for aspiring jazz flutists, up-and-coming jazzers, and seasoned pros to read through great jazz arrangements that open up for improvisation.

Among the up-and-coming jazzers was Colorado-based Dina Hollingsworth, who took some very swingin’ solos! Some of the seasoned pros who graced us with their talents this year were the great Keith Underwood on alto flute; Donna Sevcovic, a Jazz Flute Big Band veteran who blew some hot choruses on her new Eva Kingma contrabass; and Canadian jazz flute star Bill McBirnie, who wowed us yet again!

We were very lucky to have such a fine rhythm section accompany the group. It featured Vitor Gonçalves on piano, Burt Boice on bass, and Julien Cantelm on drums.

The five arrangements the ensemble played included “Flutopia” (composed and arranged by Bill Cunliffe); “I Thought About You” (by Johnny Mercer/Jimmy Can Heusen and arranged by Chris Smith); “Turbulenta” (composed and arranged by Léa Freire); “Opus de Funk” (by Horace Silver and arranged by Yuko Hoshi); and “Freedom Jazz Dance” (by Eddie Harris and arranged by Scott Whitfield).

“I Thought About You” and “Freedom Jazz Dance” were the two arrangements commissioned this year by the NFA Jazz Flute Big Band, under the direction of Billy Kerr. Both pieces will be performed by the band at our 2019 convention in Salt Lake City, under the direction of our incoming Jazz Flute Big Band coordinator, Dominique Gagné.

I kicked off the session, conducting “Flutopia” and “I Thought About You.” Then Freire—jazz flutist, pianist, and composer extraordinaire (based in San Paolo, Brazil)—led the session with her exciting and challenging piece, “Turbulenta.” She began by playing it on the piano to demonstrate the complex Brazilian rhythms. Gonçalves, also Brazilian, caught on very quickly and easily took over the piano part from Freire, while she moved to the front of the group to conduct the ensemble.

Next, Yuko Hoshi led the ensemble by conducting her burnin’ arrangement of “Opus de Funk,” one she had originally written for her own Japan Jazz Flute Big Band. Hoshi’s band, based in Tokyo, has earned much-deserved attention in both Japan and the U.S. these past few years. At this reading session, her arrangement provided many soloing opportunities for all who wanted to improvise.

“Freedom Jazz Dance,” led by yours truly, brought another wonderful Jazz Flute Big Band Reading Session to an exciting close!

—Ali Ryerson, NFA Jazz Flute Big Band and Jazz Flute Big Band reading sessions founder

photo by Ali Yuko