(Crystal A. Proxmire, 7/12/2011)
An unfortunate prediction for rain moved the Bridge Project’s first public performance of big band jazz inside from the Library’s courtyard, but that didn’t stop them from having a grand performance. It was standing room only as they introduced Ferndale to a side of big band they may have never seen before, with a focus on Michigan-made music.
Ferndale saxophonist and composer Joshua James, best known for his work with Planet D Nonet, pulled together musicians from throughout the area to give life to a wide range of modern jazz compositions written in our area.
“When people think of jazz they think of New York or New Orleans,” James said. “But there is a wealth of talent here in Detroit.” James said that his main motivation for creating the Bridge Project is to “bridge the gap” both between music and the general public, and the gap between composers and musicians.
‘This ain’t your granddad’s jazz band…There is a lot of big band music that people don’t hear. The theme that is permeating this whole project is trying to get the music out there and break down the mindset in the public that big bands are all like the ones you see in the old World War II movies. There is more to big band than Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, but that’s what most people are exposed to when they go to see big bands play. There are big bands that have a sophisticate repertoire, and there is plenty of modern jazz written for them. That’s the bridge we want to build.”
James says that keeping any band together is a challenge, but that a 17 member team requires a committed group of people. If someone is unable to make a rehearsal or performance it’s their responsibility to find a suitable replacement. “Fortunately many of us are also teachers, so we’re able to have students fill in if someone can’t make it. So on top of everything else it gives young musicians a chance to play with a large group, and to get that big band experience.
The Bridge Project has been rehearsing twice a week since early June, and has already scheduled several other gigs, including one at the upscale Via Nove restaurant at 344 W 9 Mile Rd on Wednesday, Aug 10 and another on Aug 14 at Cliff Bells Jazz Club at 2030 Park Ave in Detroit.
“So far everything we’ve scheduled has been free to the public, and we hope to play in as many Michigan and as many Ferndale locations as possible so we can continue to spread the gospel of Michigan jazz composers.”
The Ferndale Public Library seemed a natural place to start, with its newly remodeled property providing both indoor and outdoor concert space. The Library has also established a reputation as a place to see the best local music for free.
In addition to Monday night’s Bridge Project concert, the Library hosts regular First Stop Friday shows, and a summer concert series. On July 25 from 6:30pm-9:30pm there will be An Evening of Music for Flute and Guitar featuring Jeffery Zook (flute) and Bret Hog (guitar). Other musical and educational events can be found on the Library’s website at http://www.ferndale.lib.mi.us.