“I can’t really say what it is yet, but I’m going to start a new way of presenting this music and it’s going to happen on Friday,” said Chris McCourry, director of jazz studies and trumpeter for the Hillcats. “It’s going to be revolutionary.”
This Friday at 8 p.m in McNamara Rehearsal Hall, the Hillcats will be taking a new approach to the presentation of the music of renowned jazz artist and composer Joe Henderson.
The Hillcats is a faculty jazz combo comprised of Chris McCourry on trumpet, Jon Gewirtz on saxophone, Arlene McDaniel on piano, James Ball on bass, and Larry Ochiltree on drums.
While McCourry refused to divulge exactly what this “revolutionary” new way of presenting the jazz will be, he said that he wants people to be at the concert and “experience it” instead of making up their minds on the new approach based off of what they hear from others.
“I’ve been thinking about doing it for a while. I finally decided I’m going to go ahead and do this because I really think it’s going to help the way jazz is presented,” McCourry said.
According to McCourry, this new way of presenting jazz is going to be the way jazz is presented from Friday onward at Hillsdale. McCourry hopes this revolution goes far beyond Hillsdale and he plans to promote it everywhere he goes. To the best of his knowledge, McCourry said that this is the first time something like this is being attempted.
Though the presentation will be new, the music they’re playing is part of American jazz tradition. Joe Henderson was influential figure in American jazz, with a career spanning more than four decades in which he composed many important jazz pieces. In 1993 and 1994 he won the Grammy for best improvised jazz solo.
The Hillcats only feature one composer at each concert because they are trying to highlight the specific way each artist writes music. This is something that’s much easier to show with multiple pieces.
McCourry said that he chose to highlight Joe Henderson in this concert because of his importance to American Jazz and because he wanted to learn about Joe Henderson and he wanted his students to as well.
Though the Hillcats do have music, about 80 percent of what they will play is “informed improvisation,” meaning that the improvisation is based on what the artists realize from the history of the piece.
“Most of what we’re playing in jazz is improvisation,” said adjunct professor of jazz piano and the pianist for the Hillcats, Arlene McDaniel.
Jazz students find the Hillcats level of improvisation to be impressive.
“Just by nature of a small jazz combo it brings out how much they know about music, and how well they improvise … that’s pretty unique to do that and do it well,” said sophomore Conor Woodfin, who is a member of the big band McCourry conducts.