"If You Could See Me Now": Jazz Orchestra Concert Preview

On Thursday, October 20, Ken Schaphorst will conduct the NEC Jazz Orchestra in a thrilling program of works for voice and jazz orchestra by Cab Calloway, Tadd Dameron, Gil Evans, John Hollenbeck, Maria Schneider, Billy Strayhorn, and more. The program will highlight the ongoing and timeless appeal of the big band sound, featuring selections from more than seven decades of this tradition, while showcasing the talents of the department's jazz voice majors. 

From Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” to John Hollenbeck’s “A Blessing,” the program will also feature music by Billy Eckstine, Sun Ra, and Kenny Wheeler. The Jazz Orchestra and featured vocalists will perform popular songs like “Angel Eyes,” “Blue Skies,” “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “Orange Colored Sky.”

We spoke to Ken, NEC Jazz Studies Chair, to learn more about this evening’s program, which promises to be a thrilling outing for fans of the history and innovations of jazz. We also share a video of a 2013 NEC Jazz Orchestra performance of Billy Eckstine's “I Want to Talk About You” (arr. Tadd Dameron), a song which will be performed again on this program, and which features the talents of jazz vocalist Michael Mayo ’14. Michael will be returning to NEC on November 10 for an exciting residency concert.

Interview with Ken Schaphorst

How did you choose the program for “If You Could See Me Now”?

Ken Schaphorst: I wanted to include each of our 14 jazz voice majors, so I chose 14 pieces for voice and big band from throughout the history of jazz.

What can audiences expect to experience in this evening of music?

Inspired singing, playing and some of the finest songs ever written.

Which piece are you most looking forward to in this program?

Kenny Wheeler's "For Jan" is a personal favorite.

Can you tell us more about the vocalists and the songs they will be performing?

One of the 14 jazz voice majors had a conflict with the date, so I asked Lucas Hernandez, a "classical" vocalist, to sing "Every Day I Have the Blues." And he's doing great! I'm also looking forward to hearing the band sing on "Minnie the Moocher,"  "Blue Skies," "Orange Colored Sky," "Space is the Place" and "The Blessing."

With a span of seven decades, this concert promises to be quite the showcase of big band music over the years. From your point of view, why do you think this tradition continues to endure in popularity?

The combination of voice and big band is absolutely central to the history of jazz and American popular music. For many of these seven decades, this was the sound that we heard. It's in our DNA.


Reserve a free ticket to NEC Jazz Orchestra + Ken Schaphorst: If You Could See Me Now. October 20, 7:30 pm, Jordan Hall.