One the most distressingly common questions I get asked by presenters is: "can't you do something a bit... smaller?" I have to patiently explain that no, we really are an 18-piece band (plus me) and I really do need all of them. But I'm often tempted to unleash the snark: "Smaller… why, that's brilliant! It simply never occurred to me before that I could have saved myself all that hassle — not to mention a small fortune — by simply reconstituting Secret Society as a solo project! Why have I been bothering with 18 flesh-and-blood musicians when I could just do the whole thing myself with a keyboard, laptop, loop pedal, and drum machine?"
But when George Wein asked me to do present my music with a small group for his Seeing Jazz series, that was different. George has been an early and vocal supporter of Secret Society (for starters, he's brought us to Newport twice in the past three years) so I promised him I'd find a way to make it work.
I knew it wouldn't make sense for me to try to create small-group versions of Secret Society works, but I thought perhaps it might make sense for someone else, someone unconnected to the band, to reimagine this music and make it their own. Ideally that person would have some familiarity with bigband music, some understanding of why certain things are written the way they are. I wanted someone who was a strong composer and bandleader in their own right, someone with a distinct personal style who could really bring something different to the table.
Bassist-composer-bandleader Pedro Giraudo fit the bill in all respects. He's an oustanding composer in his own right — I became an instant fan of his music the first time I heard it, shortly after moving to New York. Pedro hails from Córdoba, Argentina, and his music creates a beguiling and deeply personal synthesis of contemporary jazz and folkloric elements, simultaneously sophisticated and earthy. Check it out:
Pedro has led groups of various sizes and configurations, from trios to mid-sized groups right up to his Expansions Big Band, which made their debut at Birdland this summer. This show will feature his regular septet which includes Giraudo, Todd Bashore on reeds, Tatum Greenblatt on trumpet, Jess Jurkovic on piano, Eric Doob on drums, Paulo Stagnaro on percussion, and a, ah, familiar face on trombone.
I'm pretty excited about this: I told Pedro to approach this project in the spirit of Bob Brookmeyer, whose standard disclaimer when he was commissioned to create arrangements was: "I cannot guarantee one recognizable note." I have not been privy to any of the rehearsals (though there's been some Facebook chatter about them) -- I'll be hearing them for the first time on Friday night, at the same time as you guys. I look forward to being surprised.
Tickets are here -- those under 30 can get half-price ($15) admission at the door.
1. Actually, that is a real question I have asked myself on more than one occasion.