Jazz Series Starts With Tribute to Parker & Dance
People dust off those old phonograms, grab your favorite jazz records and put on your best wingtips in preparation of the opening performance of Santa Monica College's 20th year of the Spring Jazz Concert series. "Interior Flight: A Tribute to 'Bird,'" the opening performance in six parts, brings the talents of a New York City co-op dance ensemble combined with the music of Charlie "Bird" Parker for a visually and musically stunning night of dancing and jazz on stage at The Morgan Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica.
Choreographed by Kindra Windish, a former SMC student, performing for her third year in the concert series, the dance promises a visually stunning and thoughtful evening exploring costume, live horn playing and the effects of memory on relationships. For those who love jazz, or for those who love dance, the beauty of this modern interpretation of movement and sound, sets the weekend afire in experimental improvisation.
Windish said, "I began making the new pieces for this concert by thinking about Parker's nickname 'Bird.' I thought all of the movement themes, both direct and indirect, associated with the word 'Bird.' I ultimately decided on making four new pieces that all revolved around the question: Is it possible to transcend our personal histories or are we forever restrained by our memory? 'Interior Flight' is a series of dances that explore how memory shapes and dictates our relationships."
Dancing in the performance is Thania Acaron, Maria Breeza and Jennifer Twilley, Windish's partners in the cooperative dance troupe. Often the four dancers take turns choreographing different shows and during these months Windish takes her turn at leading the four-person dance troupe.
"I am interested in finding the beautiful in the awkward," Windish said. "The movement I create is a compilation of all movement that I have experienced and witnessed." Windish's choreography and collaborative work has been featured in the Cool New York Dance Festival, One Arm Red, La MaMa E.T.C., and P.S. 122.
Accompanying the dance performance and musical compositions of Parker will be Brent Dodsun playing the horn. Dodsun is a graduate of the Julliard School in New York; he also mixed and edited the music for the show; and Mathew Elgar playing guitar, an SMC Alumni and professional musician. Dodsun remarked that the evening's music features the music of Parker arranged, mixed, and edited for modern dance, peppered with live music that Parker wrote and played himself. Jennifer Twilley let it slip that one of Parker's songs, "is played forward, then backwards."
Only four of the dance pieces in the six part series, however, utilize Parker's own compositions, such as "Flyin' Home," "Lover Man," and Parker's version of "Summertime." The other two pieces take on a sadder note, however, as "Celestial Intercourse" pays tribute to a recently deceased friend using the composition Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasilieres #5 (Aria) played by Dodsun and Elgart.
The other, "Elbow Grease," is an imagined collaboration featuring Charlie Parker's musical ideas (performed on trumpet) and the recorded music of Edgar Varese. Charlie Parker heard the music of the avant-garde composer Varese and he was so moved by his work that he met with Varese and planned a musical collaboration with him. Parker was eager to begin work, but it never happened because of his sudden death.
Professor Alvin Lyles, who retired in 2004 from the Music Department (though he still teaches one class of Jazz Appreciation), started the Jazz Spring Concert Series 20 years ago in the hope of making the sound of live jazz easily accessible for his students and the community of Santa Monica. In 1999 Lyles came upon the idea of expressing the movements within jazz compositions through the movements of dance.
"Since jazz is about the movement of the musical compositions," Lyles said, "and through movement a dancer interprets the music, we thought it would be nice to see the movement of certain hard to understand jazz pieces on the stage." With Windish choreographing the first performance and Lyles picking the music, the Spring Jazz Concert series saw Windish perform and choreograph the show in 1999 to the music of Miles Davis' album "Bitches Brew."
After this first show, each year now Lyles picks the music and a dance troupe performs on stage; with Windish returning in 2004 dancing to the music of Cecil Taylor; and this year experimenting with Charlie Parker. Lyles says, "'Bird,' he is one of the greatest jazz innovators of all time, at the head of it all, he changed how people play their instruments, and through it all he was there, influencing the music."
["Interior Flight: A Tribute to 'Bird'" performs Friday, Feb. 25, 8 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 26, 8 p.m., Morgan Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd.-Part of the Spring Jazz Concert series running through Ma