“Bits of Blue” video:Howard Johnson and Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band

Dennis Connors, our resident photographer, videographer and film maker.
Dennis Connors, our resident photographer, videographer and film maker.
Our friend and resident (since 1997) photographer, videographer and film maker Dennis Connors has created a short video of a past performance (Feb 25, 2015) of Howard Johnson with our big band, Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band. Dennis has a series of these short videos called “Bits of Blue”, that feature our band members and compositions of our resident composers. You can see those on the video page.


Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band Celebrates Howard Johnson! July 27, 2016

howard-johnson-2On July 27th, at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, NJ, we will be celebrating the life, music and birthday of the amazing Howard Johnson! We will feature Howard’s big band charts of his music and arrangements of well known standards, such as Nica’s Dream by Horace Silver, and playing other charts of jazz standards that Howard has performed or recorded, and an arrangement of The Creator Has A Master Plan by our resident composer Russ Vines. (check out Howard’s version here)

Elzy Kolb
Elzy Kolb
To say that Howard Johnson is a national jazz treasure would be an understatement! What follows here in this post is a summary of his career written by our dear friend and excellent jazz journalist Elzy Kolb, who, for the past several months, has been creating daily posts on Facebook in celebration of Howard’s upcoming 75th birthday. Now in his 75th year (born Aug. 7, 1941), Johnson has been burning with the fire of bass-clef innovation since well before he took Eric Dolphy’s advice and moved to New York in 1963. By then, Johnson had already discovered that he could push the tuba’s range to previously unheard heights, surpassing the trombone and edging into trumpet territory. Though there was no existing repertoire for such unexplored territory in the early 1960s, Dolphy assured Johnson that someone with his ability would find plenty of work in the Big Apple. Almost as soon as he arrived in town, Johnson caught the ear—and joined the band–of Charles Mingus. The iconic bassist/composer wrote parts for him in such a high range “even trombonists wouldn’t welcome seeing those notes on the page,” Johnson says. Regardless, he always soared to the occasion, overjoyed by the challenge.
Howard Johnson and Gil Evans © JazzSign/Lebrecht Music & Arts
Howard Johnson and Gil Evans © JazzSign/Lebrecht Music & Arts

Johnson became the muse of other composers, including Gil Evans and Carla Bley, establishing relationships lasting decades. Every tuba player who came after has been challenged by the standard Johnson set. He believes the tuba can expand into a virtually unlimited range, based on the abilities of the player. By demonstrating his skills, he single-handedly moved the instrument out of its traditional place in the rhythm sections of large ensembles into featured roles in small bands.
He influenced musicians by expanding their ideas of the possibilities of the instrument, and demonstrated enormous generosity of spirit, mentoring other tuba players, past, present and future. He influenced jazz (and pop) composers and arrangers by bringing a heretofore ignored instrument to the front line of soloists, and changed jazz overall by altering the direction of how jazz used the bass clef—no more oom-pah-pah, but pure linear bop, swing and rock phrasing that could stand on its own against any other “typical” jazz solo instrument.
Howard Johnson's tuba choir "Gravity"!
Howard Johnson’s tuba choir “Gravity”!
At a time when jazz-rock fusion was gaining traction, Johnson opened up the music without diluting the tradition, performing with an unwavering jazz sensibility as a founding member of the “Saturday Night Live” band. His writing, arranging and playing captured the attention and imagination of such pop culture icons as John Lennon, Paul Simon, Levon Helm and Taj Mahal; Johnson never dumbed it down, never resorted to spoon-feeding anyone “Jazz 101” level music. He has always been “The Real Thing,” as Taj Mahal dubbed the 1971 CD that debuted Johnson’s innovative multi-tuba brass choir, Gravity.
Approaching his 75th birthday, Johnson declares that he still burns to play, still has fire in his belly to solo, to increase awareness of the versatility of often-underutilized horns, and to continue to have his say on the definitive way to play them.
Since 1963, Howard Johnson has performed and recorded on a variety of instruments, including tuba, baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, flugelhorn, electric bass, cornet, pennywhistle, E-flat clarinet, B-flat clarinet; credited on more than 600 recordings. He has made numerous contributions as an arranger, composer, educator, clinician, artist in residence, and vocalist.
Howard Johnson on baritone sax with Levon Helm
Howard Johnson on baritone sax with Levon Helm
Partial list of live credits: (* indicates NEA Jazz Master) Charles Mingus: 1964-1966; 1972-1974 Hank Crawford: 1965-1967 *Gil Evans: 1966-1988 *Archie Shepp: 1966-1968 Buddy Rich: 1966 *Gerald Wilson: 1967; 1972 Oliver Nelson: 1967; 1972 *Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra: 1968 Jazz Composer’s Orchestra: 1968-1970 (*Carla Bley, Mike Mantler, Cecil Taylor, *Pharoah Sanders) *Carla Bley: 1968-1975 *Quincy Jones: 1972 Taj Mahal: 1971-present The Band: 1971-1976 Gato Barbieri: 1974-1975 John Lennon: 1974-1980 Saturday Night Live: 1975-1980 (bandleader in 1979-’80 season) George Gruntz: 1976-2013 (including first jazz band tour of mainland China in 1991)
Howard Johnson and Jack DeJohnette
Howard Johnson and Jack DeJohnette
*Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition: 1984-1987 Michele Rosewoman’s New Yor-Uba: 1985-present *Dizzy Gillespie Big Band: 1987 Abdullah Ibrahim: 1987-1990 North German State Radio (NDR) Big Band: 1991-1995 John Scofield: 1995-1996 *J. J. Johnson: 1996 Three Baritone Saxophone Band: 2004-2013 Charles Tolliver Big Band: 2004-2013 David “Fathead” Newman: 2005-2008 Levon Helm Band: 2006-2012 *Randy Weston: 2013-2014 (recording set for 2016 release) Johnson also appeared and/or recorded with *McCoy Tyner, *Andrew Hill, *Freddie Hubbard, Ray Charles, *Jimmy Owens, Jane Bunnett, T.S. Monk, Marty Ehrlich, Lee Morgan, Clifford Jordan, the Heath Brothers, Beaver Harris, Maria Muldaur, David Sanborn, Catherine Russell, Bob Moses, Hank Mobley, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, *Gunther Schuller, Frank Strozier, *Cecil Taylor, B.B. King, Paul Butterfield, Bob James, Bill Dixon, George Benson, John Faddis, Leon Thomas, *Muhal Richard Abrams, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Muddy Waters, Carly Simon, and many others.

Howard Johnson's 5 baritone sax group with rhythm section "The Bear-Tones"
Howard Johnson’s 5 baritone sax group with rhythm section “The Bear-Tones”
Howard Johnson as a leader: Substructure/Gravity: Multi-tuba brass choir (1968-present); Alumni include Bob Stewart, Joseph Daley, Dave Bargeron, Earl McIntyre, and others. HoJo Five (1988-present); With Erica Lindsay, Francesca Tanksley, Melissa Slocum, and others. Beartones: Multi-baritone band (2003-present); Alumni include Lisa Parrott, Claire Daly, Lauren Sevian. Other: Aided in design and development of Heritage Howard Johnson Gravity Meinl-Weston tuba. Clinics and residencies: Bowling Green University, Penn State, University of Missouri (KC), Texas Christian University, University of Akron, and Kansas State University, among others.
hojo tuba on backDiscography as a leader (all on Verve): Arrival: (tribute to *Pharoah Sanders) with Nubia (1994); GRAVITY!!! (1995); Right Now!: Gravity with special guest Taj Mahal (1998). Partial discography credits: (* indicates NEA Jazz Master) Charles Mingus: Music Written for Monterey 1965 (1965), Charles Mingus and Friends in Concert (1972), Let My Children Hear Music (1972) Hank Crawford: Dig These Blues (1965), After Hours (1966), Mr. Blues (1967) *Archie Shepp: Mama Too Tight (1966), Things Have Got to Change (1971), Tray of Silver (1989) *Gary Burton: A Genuine Tong Funeral (1967) *Charlie Haden: Liberation Music Orchestra (1968) Jazz Composers Orchestra: Communications (1968) *Andrew Hill: Passing Ships (1969) *Pharoah Sanders: Izipho Zam (My Gifts) (1969) *Gil Evans: More than a dozen recordings released from 1969 through 2008 Taj Mahal The Real Thing (1971) Johnny Coles: Katumbo (Dance) (1971) *Carla Bley: Escalator Over the Hill (1971), Tropic Appetites (1974) Charles Tolliver: Music Inc. (1971), With Love (2007) *George Russell: Living Time (1972) The Band: Rock of Ages (1972), The Last Waltz (1978), High on the Hog (1996) Gato Barbieri: Chapter Three: Viva Emiliano Zapata (1974), Chapter Four: Alive in New York (1975) John Lennon: Walls and Bridges (1974); John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy (1980) Sam Rivers: Crystals (1974) Jaco Pastorius: Jaco Pastorius (1975), Word of Mouth (1981) *Dexter Gordon: Sophisticated Giant (1977) Clifford Jordan: Inward Fire (1978) George Gruntz: Nine recordings released between 1978 and 1994 *Jack De Johnette Special Edition: Album Album (1984) *Jimmy Heath: New Picture (1985) Spike Lee film soundtracks School Daze, Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X, Clockers (1988-1995) *Miles Davis: Miles & Quincy Live at Montreux (1991) Chet Baker: But Not For Me (1994) *J. J. Johnson The Brass Orchestra (1996) Tom Harrell: Wise Children (2003)

Our history with Howard goes all the way back to 2001! Our lead trumpet player, Mike Spengler, who was playing with the Ellington Orchestra, had asked Howard, who was also playing in the Ellington Orchestra, if he would like to bring in his music to our big band. Howard said he was interested and would like to talk to me. So I went to the performance at St Peter’s Church in the Citi-Corp building in NYC (which we also refer to as the “jazz church”), with jazz journalist George Kanzler, and I spoke with Howard before they went on stage. We talked a little bit about what he would like to do and agreed to call each other. He came in as our guest composer/performer August 29th of 2001, when we were still playing monthly concerts at Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair, NJ.
George Kanzler interviewed Howard and wrote an extensive article for the Star Ledger. Howard called Elzy Kolb and told her about the date and about our band. She called me for an interview and wrote an article in the NYTimes about the appearance. We had a full house the night of the performance, with people sitting on the floor and people sitting on each others laps, it was amazing! The love that this audience had for Howard was so moving!

We moved to Trumpets Jazz Club in 2003, but before we made that move, we performed at NJPAC’s Sounds of the City in Newark,NJ in August, and we produced another show for Howard, this time at the Burgdorff Cultural Center of Maplewood, NJ in October. After our move to Trumpets, Howard came in a few times to perform as a soloist on various compositions here and there. The next time he was featured was on a fundraiser that the band organized for me while I was recovering from a serious cancer operation. You can see clips from that performance on the mini-documentary that our good friend, resident photographer and film maker Dennis Connors made, “DMOCBB-A Sonic Party”. The next time that Howard was featured was our 14th Anniversary, and it was the first time I had brought the band back after my cancer operation, scheduled for Jan 26th, 2011, but we had to reschedule several times due to blizzards, until we finally had our performance in March. Parts of that performance are also in DMOCBB-A Sonic Party. The next time we featured Howard was last year on February 25th, 2015. Also on that performance was guest and emerging composer/bassist Charlie Dougherty.

Howard and the Gravity tuba at Dillon Music in Woodbridge, NJ!
Howard and the Gravity tuba at Dillon Music in Woodbridge, NJ!
I’ve also had the opportunity to perform with Howard outside of the big band. On March 1, 2006,I was honored to play the celebration of the unveiling of a tuba designed especially for Howard called the Meinl Weston 2011TA HoJo Gravity Series 4-Valve 4/4 BBb Tuba Standard!Here is a youtube video of Howard and the tuba maker explaining the technology of this tuba at Dillon Music and some shots of us playing at the J.J. Bitting Brewing Company, along with bassist Bill May and drummer Jeff Brillinger.

A few months later, July 2006, I accompanied Howard at the Summer Arts Cafe at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ, presented by the Jazz Arts Project. This was an intimate setting that allowed Howard to play and reminisce about his career in music.The audience members were of course thrilled by his performance and by his stories.

Eric Dolphy: Freedom of Sound Festival, our group:Marty Ehrlich, Anton Denner, Howard Johnson, Ken Filiano, Michael Sarin and yours truly!
Eric Dolphy: Freedom of Sound Festival, our group:Marty Ehrlich, Anton Denner, Howard Johnson, Ken Filiano, Michael Sarin and yours truly!
In May 2014, I composed a piece in honor of Eric Dolphy called “Birdsongs for Eric”, which featured Howard on bass clarinet, and was premiered on the “Eric Dolphy:Freedom of Sound” festival, produce by Seed Artists. Also on that performance; Ken Filiano-bass, Michael Sarin-drums, Marty Ehrlich-flute, and Anton Denner-flute.

And now we arrive at our upcoming performance July 27th, 2016, to celebrate (a week early) Howard’s 75th birthday, and his 53 years of making music, contributing music to what at times seems like the entire musical community around the world! Howard has pioneered and pushed the boundaries of the tuba, both technically and musically and into musical genres that were new territories for the tuba. hojo pwAnd as Elzy said in the summary of his career, it’s not just the tuba that he plays, but also baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, flugelhorn, electric bass, cornet, penny whistle, E-flat clarinet, B-flat clarinet! Elzy is more than 100 days into her daily posts on Facebook with more posts to come with some of the most well-known names and best stories.Elzy often ends her posts with this post script and it’s one of my favorites…”And don’t forget, this man has a tuba “sitting in the corner, waiting to run riot.” And if he’s not at home, Howard likely has a penny whistle in his pocket, just in case some music is called for.”
See you at the party!!


Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band features guest composer Timothy Miller and the Elizabeth High School Upper Academy Jazz Band

Timothy Lee MillerOn June 8th, 2016 at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, NJ, Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band welcomes back our featured guest composer Timothy Miller and the Elizabeth High School Upper Academy Big Band. Tim was a featured guest composer, along side composers from the VCFA MFA Music Composition Program (where I am on the faculty), and one of my co-faculty members Andy Jaffe, 2 years ago on July 30th, 2014. Tim is bringing in 4 charts to the band, 2 we have done before, Traffic Circle and Miles To Go Before I Sleep, and 2 new ones, Poochie’s Waltz and Bright Morning Star. About the music: “Traffic Circle”-inspiration for this piece came from a recent visit to Scotland where there are traffic circles, or turnabouts at nearly every intersection where we in the US would have traffic lights. The Scots seem to have it down, but all I could envision was the final scene of the original Pink Panther movie where all of the characters of the film are going round and round this circle in a crazy game of charades. This is an upbeat piece with a lot of energy.”Miles To Go Before I Sleep”-In 1997 my brother helped me move from Los Angeles to Nashville, which was a four day drive across the country. The trip was complicated, however, by an encounter with a massive storm front, which divereted our trek south into Texas to avoid coming face to face with a huge tornado. As we drew closer and closer to Nasvhille and my new home there, all I could think about was how tired I was, and it was just a few more miles before I could sleep again.”Bright Morning Star”-This is my newest big band piece, which features the sax section with baritone, tenor and alto solos, plus a full section soli, both improvised and written. It is inspired by and based on one of my choral works – Song On May Morning, which was commissioned by Anadarka High School in Oklahoma. “Poochie’s Waltz”-This piece was written in honor of my mother – “Poochie” – whose health has been somewhat precarious lately. The theme is a waltz I wrote in 1988 just prior to starting grad school at the University of Miami. Sitting unused in my sketch book, I dusted it off and put it to use in this new work that features the piano all the way through. The big band just lends a little support from time to time, but it’s a very soft piano spotlight that I wrote with the improvisatorial genius of Diane Moser in mind. MY mother’s nickname comes from her sisters in childhood. She was one of eight children – two boys and six girls. Marie, the oldest of the girls gave each of the others nicknames – Stellee, Oobye, Bucky Dick, Trudy Boo and Poochie.
We are very pleased to welcome back the Elizabeth High School Upper Academy Jazz Band directed by Wayne Dillon! These very talented youngsters and their super dedicated director have been very busy performing and winning awards! They recently competed in Philadelphia this past April as part of the Worldstrides Heritage Music festival. The competition took place at the University Of Pennsylvania’s Irvine auditorium, and featured twenty three ensembles from across the northeast. The Upper Academy Jazz band won 3 awards,Gold Rating – 1st place,Outstanding Band of the Festival and Adjudicator’s Award. Two students also won the Maestro Award for best solos:alto saxophonist Brandon Mercado and trumpet player Jessa St. Laurent! Both the Upper Academy Jazz and Symphonic Bands won the Sweepstakes Award with the highest combined scores. Congratulations to all of these talented students and their directors!
Our sets for June 8th are:
7PM the Elizabeth High School Upper Academy Jazz Band
8PM & 10 PM Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band featuring guest composer Timothy Miller
Looking forward to seeing you there!


Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band 19th Anniversary Concert w/guest composer Linda Miksza

photo credit: Dennis Connors
photo credit: Dennis Connors
On March 30th at 8PM at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, NJ, we will be celebrating 19 years of developing and presenting new music for big band. Since 1997 we have presented over 100 guest composers and performers and our resident composers have grown to eleven! This month we welcome composer Linda Miksza and her composition “Bottoms Up”, inspired by Thad Jones’s “electric period” from the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Linda Miksza is not only a composer, but also a performer and music educator. She writes in classical, musical theater, jazz and pop styles, and has studied composition with Ting Ho and Rich DeRosa. Linda has been featured with us in previous years. During our residency (Jan 1997-June 2003) at Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair, NJ, we performed her composition “Gris Fantasma” (A Mini Opera For Big Band), on Halloween of course, and since moving to Trumpets Jazz Club we have performed her arrangements of “Angel Eyes” and “Santa Baby”. Currently she is completing a collection of pieces set to the poetry of Maya Angelou, entitled “Melodies For Maya”. And, we have a guest conductor, Dr. David Demsey, Professor of Music and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at William Paterson University. Demsey will say a few words about the legacy of Thad Jones, who was the first artistic director of the jazz program at WPU.

Linda and Ed Xiques, photo credit: Dennis Connors
Linda and Ed Xiques, photo credit: Dennis Connors
Linda is the author of “Electric Thad: Thad Jones and His Use of Electric Instruments and Rock Styles in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra”, recently published in Jazz Perspectives, which I highly recommend as a “must read” for all of you Thad Jones/Mel Lewis fans.
Linda goes into great depths about that period of history not only with Thad and Mel, but with the music scene in general. In the article she interviews our lead alto player and contributing composer Ed Xiques who was a member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra from 1971-1978. Currently, Linda is working on a more in depth version of that interview and preparing it for publication.

Ed Xiques leading the band from our early days at Trumpets Jazz Club. Photo credit: Dennis Connors
Ed Xiques leading the band from our early days at Trumpets Jazz Club. Photo credit: Dennis Connors
Program notes from Linda:
Bottoms Up is a “tip of the hat” to Thad Jones and was inspired by the Electric Thad topic. Its score includes electric guitar with a wah-wah effect pedal, electric bass and electric piano (specifically a Fender Rhodes). The form is basically a 12-bar blues with extended harmonies. It opens with a slow 4-bar “orchestral” prelude, before going into a funk-rock groove, representing the musical trend that so influenced Thad Jones as a composer in the 1970s.

Dennis Connors, our resident photographer and film maker.
Dennis Connors, our resident photographer and film maker.

It has been an amazing 19 years with these fabulous musicians! We’ve done everything from straight ahead to the avant-garde and everything in between.Currently Dennis Connors is working on a feature film about the band, a little preview of that is in this short trailer. We’re working towards a new recording and archiving all of our charts and documents from the past 19 years. A huge thank you to all who have performed with us, did the door (thank you Natascha, Chad, Dan, Ariel and many others), created fliers and ads (thank you Bruce Hanson), wrote stories about us (thank you Elzy Kolb and George Kanzler and many others) and of course a huge thank you to our audience members who have been incredibly loyal for the past 19 years, you inspire us to continue the mission!


“Yellow Stars of Tolerance” documentary film score

yellow Stars
Last year, I had the pleasure of composing music for the documentary film “Yellow Stars of Tolerance” by Jemglo Production Company, and at this same time last year I was at MacIntyre Music Recording Studio with engineer Reed Robins, recording the music ala solo piano.

In May, JEMGLO released “Yellow Stars of Tolerance”, a half-hour documentary about yellow stars that were painted on a synagogue exterior in the town of Elbeuf in Normandy, France during World War II. In an initiative led by former Elbeuvian/ current New Yorker Marie Lippman, the stars were officially preserved a few days after the 70th anniversary of D-Day last June as a permanent testament to the dangers of intolerance. The plaque that was installed read: “The yellow stars painted on this wall during the Occupation 1940-1944 are evidence of the anti-Semitic hatred of the Nazis. They were protected so we will always remember the mortal danger of racism.”

Ellen Friedland and Curt Fissel
Ellen Friedland and Curt Fissel

Ellen Friedland (producer/writer at Jemglo) and Curt Fissel (director/director of photography/editor at Jemglo) contacted me about composing music for this project in the summer of 2014. I immediately said yes because I had worked on another project with them for the Augustus Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site through Voices and Visions Productions Ltd, and I really enjoyed the experience. I had also worked with Curt about 10 years ago when he generously volunteered to create a short documentary about my big band entitled “What is this thing called big band?” So I set out researching Jewish composers who were from France, or were expatriated to France at the onset of WWII. I found a very in-depth book on this subject called “Forbidden Music:The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis” by Michael Haas. I also did lots of research about the music during that time period, what the citizen’s of El Beuf might have been listening to on their radio’s, or phonographs or in the synagogue. The music I composed has influences of sacred Jewish music from Europe and North Africa and Klezmer music, thanks to my years performing and recording with Yale Strom and Elizabeth Schwartz. I included music by other composers as well: the French Jewish composer Charles-Valetin Alkan, the Austiran hazzan, Salomon Sulzer, who modernized traditional synagogue melodies in the 1840’s and Felix Mendelssohn (Bartholdy), who refused to give up his Jewish name (as many Jews did out of survival) and who’s grandfather was the celebrated Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Even though Mendelssohn has a Christian last name on record, the Nazi’s banned his music because of his Jewish roots.

Yellow Stars was picked up for distribution by NETA (National Educational Telecommunications Association), a professional association that serves public television licensees and educational entities in all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. To date, PBS and educational stations in the following regions have broadcast the documentary: Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Monterey, CA; Augusta, Savannah and Columbus, GA; Salt Lake City, UT; Milwaukee, WI; Champaign, IL; Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Sparta and Columbia, SC; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; Charleston, WV; Waco, Temple and Bryan, TX; South Bend, Elkhart, Evansville, and Elkhart IN; Fargo, Valley City, Minot, and Bismarck ND; Anchorage and Juneau, AK; and Quincy-Hannibal, MO.

The documentary has also been/is an Official Selection at: United Nations Association Film Festival (Palo Alto, CA), Bucharest (Romania) Jewish Film Festival, Cincinnati Film Festival, Culver City (Los Angeles) Film Festival, San Luis Obispo (CA) Jewish Film Festival (10 January 2016), and New Jersey Film Festival (21 February 2016), and is scheduled to be screened at a program entitled “France and the Holocaust Revisited” to be presented on March 23rd by the American Jewish Historical Society at the Center for Jewish History in NY,NY.

A week after the recording session, January 7, 2015, came the attacks on the headquarters of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket near the Porte de Vincennes in Paris, France. Seventeen people were killed and twenty two people were wounded. Immediately afterwards, someone in El Beuf, sprayed red paint over the yellow stars on the wall of the synagogue, the subject of this film, the plaque had already been vandalized months before.

Paris vigil
As I watched the news from Paris, and listened to President Holland, it felt like I had already lived this, through researching, composing and recording music for this documentary…I couldn’t grasp that this was happening again, right now, in our time. My brain had been involved in music from ancient temple days, the 1800’s, the 1950’s and 60’s…how could this be happening again? It was a sobering feeling.

I will post updates on my facebook page and you can also find updates on Jemglo’s facebook page.

Meanwhile, I leave you with this from my Diane Moser WDMO recording (2012), myself on piano, Rob Thorsen on bass, Duncan Moore on drums, Marguerita Page on vocals and my son Chad Moser who created the mix….”One Love”.


Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band features guest composer Phil Engsberg Dec 9, 2015

Phil Engsberg HeadshotContinuing with presenting emerging young composers the CBB features guest composer Phil Engsberg on Dec 9, 2015 at Trumpets Jazz Club, Montclair, NJ. Phil Engsberg is one of New Jersey’s up-and-coming young composers. Phil attended the University of North Florida to study saxophone performance with the great Bunky Green, but found his voice after moving to New Jersey to study composition at William Paterson University with some of the well-established musicians in the area – Cecil Bridgewater, Pete McGuinness, and Jim McNeely.

Drawing heavily from the legacy of Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer, Phil’s music is rooted in the tradition of classic big band writing, but is always looking to touch the audience in its own way. Dabbling in everything from big band composition and film scoring, to poetry, and spoken word, his music brings an exciting, lyrical storytelling aspect that is sure to grab your attention, and keep you looking for what comes next.

Phil’s music has been performed at some of New York and New Jersey’s premiere jazz clubs. He co-leads a big band called “Big Beat” with Caleb Rumley and Charlie Dougherty, both who have been guest composers with the CBB. He is currently a part of the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop and is looking forward to bringing some of his newest works to life.


Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band Annual Peace Concert and Tribute to Daniel Pearl World Music Days Oct 7th, 2015

images Once again we present our Annual Peace Concert and Tribute to Daniel Pearl World Music Days on Oct 7th, 8PM at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, NJ. Our peace concerts began the month of September in 2001, just a few short weeks after the terrorist attacks on Sept 11th. Our next peace concert was in 2004, and then again in 2008. Since October 2011, we have been participating with the Daniel Pearl World Music Days, and each year we present an evening of music that reflects on our global society; it’s challenges, it’s beauty and our hopes for a more harmonious future.

This year we are featuring new works by:Marty Fogel, Rob Middleton, Diane Moser and guest composer,Caleb Rumley. We will also feature works that we have featured in past peace concerts by our resident composers:Jim Cifelli, Matt Haviland, Rob Henke, Erick Storckman, Russ Vines and Ed Xiques.

Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl

Although his vocation as a journalist is what brought Daniel Pearl professional acclaim, Danny was also a classically trained violinist, an avid fiddler and a creative mandolin player who used his passion for music to form friendships that crossed cultural and religious divides.

Danny lived a life that knew no geographical boundaries with a spirit that knew no prejudice. He joined musical groups in every community in which he lived, leaving behind a trail of musician-friends around the globe. While working as a Wall Street Journal reporter in South Asia in 2002, he was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan, causing international outrage.

The world was shocked by the senseless loss of Daniel Pearl, an ethical journalist and accomplished musician who dedicated his life to bringing joy and understanding to the world.
Since then, he has become an icon for all wishing to bridge East-West differences.

The Daniel Pearl Foundation was formed by Danny’s family and friends to continue his mission and to address the root causes of this tragedy in the spirit, style and principles that shaped Danny’s work and character. These principles include uncompromised objectivity and integrity; insightful and unconventional perspective; tolerance and respect for people of all cultures; unshaken belief in the effectiveness of education and communications; and the love of music, humor and friendship.

Every year around his October 10th birthday, musicians around the world join in “Harmony for Humanity” to honor Danny’s memory and the principles by which he lived. Since 2002, Daniel Pearl World Music Days has grown to include the participation of more than 11,000 performances in 129 countries.

We dedicate this concert to the spirit of Daniel Pearl and the World Music Days initiative, in the hopes that we will all recognize that we are here together on this planet, and to live in harmony and peace.
“There are two aspects of individual harmony: the harmony between body and soul, and the harmony between individuals. All the tragedy in the world, in the individual and in the multitude, comes from lack of harmony. And harmony is the best given by producing harmony in one’s own life. ”
― Hazrat Inayat Khan


Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band 18th Anniversary Concert! June 10th, 2015

photo by Dennis Connors
photo by Dennis Connors

Eighteen years ago, on January 29th, 1997, we had our first performance at Tierney’s Tavern in Montlcair. The photo to the left (courtesy of Dennis Connors) with Tom Colao on alto sax, Marty Fogel on tenor sax, guitarist Larry Maltz and myself in the background is from that residency, which ran from January 1997 to June 2003. We performed every last Wednesday of the month, played the music of our resident composers and the music of a myriad of guest composers; some who were from the area, some who came from further away including, England, Japan,and various parts of the states. One of those was guest composers was trumpet player Tom Wirtel , who drove all the way from central Illinois, during a snow storm, and picked up another trumpet player along the way…all for the music. We have been extraordinarily blessed to have such an amazing group of composers and performers come be our guests, all of which are listed on the DMOCBB page.

Erick Storckman
Erick Storckman

We have been in residence at Trumpets Jazz Club, Montclair, NJ since November 2003. We’ve also performed in many other venues and festivals along the way: 12 Miles West Theatre, Burgdorff Cultural Center, Montclair Public Library, New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music,Jersey Jazz by the Lake (the day after hurricane Floyd no less!), New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Lake George Jazz Weekend, and The Meadowlands Environmental Center.

Guests have included vocalists, instrumentalists, poets, spoken word, rappers, film makers, actors, and dancers! Recently we’ve invited young, emerging composers to join us such as Caleb Rumley, Sarah McDonald, Joe Vilardi, and Charlie Dougherty. We’ve really enjoyed working with these exciting young composers, and there will be more soon!

Elizabeth High School Jazz Band

We have another “first” for us this month, we are including the Elizabeth High School Upper Academy Jazz Band, directed by Wayne Dillon, in our celebration! These very talented youngsters will perform at 7PM. The Elizabeth HS Upper Academy Jazz band is made up of 20 students in the tenth through twelfth grades. The students audition in Sept and the band is created. The band placed second in 2010 at the NJAJE State championships in Div 1., and have won best trombone section twice. The band has earned superior ratings at music festivals for the past 10 years, and has just completed a 6 week jazz residency with Oscar Perez and Nuevo Comienza.

This month,we are featuring the music of our resident composers who are busily creating new works for the band including: Erick Storckman, Marty Fogel, Ed Xiques, Matt Haviland, Rob Middleton, Chris Rogers, Russ Vines and yours truly!

I also want to say a very special thank you to Natascha Radke Henke, who for many years was my co-conspirator in all Natasha3123DeSatCropresizedthings big band and Composers Forum of Montclair. Natascha moved to the states many years ago, married out trumpet player Rob Henke, and began helping me with graphic design, mailings, programs, collecting money at the door, helping guest artists find their way to the club and just being a great friend!


Another thank you goes to our friend and wonderful jazz journalist Elzy Kolb. Elzy has written countless articles about us,helping to spread the word, and during my cancer crisis, was there, along with her husband Russ Vines, supporting and helping in every way possible! Also, a huge thank you to the many journalists who have covered us from the beginning: George Kanzler, who was the first journalist to really spread the word about us with countless articles in The Newark Star Ledger, and was an incredible supporter of the band. After George retired, Zan Stewart came in, and became a wonderful supporter of the band, writing many wonderful articles as well. A thank you to Jay Lustig, who helped spread the word at the Star Ledger, and now spreads the word on his own site,
A thank you to Jim Beckerman of The Record, Tony Mottola, editor of The New Jersey Jazz Society Journal, and Hot House Magazine, which from the very beginning, along with George Kanzler, has been an incredible supporter of the band. We also thank The Montclair Times, WBGO, Homegrown Radio and John Hammel, for their constant support over the years, and the many other journalist and radio stations who have interviewed us and helped immensely in reaching out to the public about the band.

A big thank you to Andy Eulau, who is not only our bassist extraordinaire, he also created this website, and continues to help, maintain, and in general put out those hacker fires!

A huge thank you to the many audio engineers and photographers and film makers who have been documenting the band since 1997; Kevin Papa, Chris Drukker, Ryen Tetzloff, Curt Fissel, Bruce Hanson, and John Guth, who recorded our first and only CD, but has come in many times to record us live.


And an extra huge thank you to Dennis Connors who has been documenting the band consistently since 1997, has taken hundreds of photographs, was one of the videographers on our first documentary, and has gone on to make many more films about us, which you can see on the video page.

Thanks to the many people who have been doing the door for us these last several years, Ariel Guidry and her sister, , John Albert Dubinsky, Dan Cassidy, and my son Chad Moser, who not only does the door, but also comes in and plays with us on turntables!

Thank you to Trumpets Jazz Club, Enrico Granafei, Kristine Massari, Judy De Angelis and all of their staff, for being so supportive and giving us a home!

And thank you to our wonderful audience members, you are like family to us, we always look forward to playing music for you, because you are so incredibly appreciative and supportive! Thank you one and all for your support through the years, we could not have done this without you!


Feb 25th Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band with guests Howard Johnson and Charlie Dougherty

Howard JohnsonOn Feb 25th at Trumpets Jazz Club, the CBB welcomes back the amazing tuba and bari sax virtuoso Howard Johnson and welcomes for the first time emerging composer Charlie Dougherty. Howard Johnson is universally known as the finest proponent of the jazz tuba. He has pioneered the jazz vocabulary for the tuba through his work with:Charles Mingus, Gil Evans,Archie Shepp, Buddy Rich, Oliver Nelson, Gerald Wilson, the Jazz Composers Orchestra, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal, John Lennon, Levon Helm and many, many more. He was the conductor for the Saturday Night Live band in the 1970’s and for 4 years he was associated with the NDR Big Band in Hamburg, Germany. Howard’s first appearance with the CBB was August 29th, 2001. Since then, he has been an ardent supporter of the band, coming in as guest soloist for many projects, and as guest composer for the May 2009 benefit concert for Diane Moser, during her recovery from GIST cancer. Check out this interview with Howard and hear about his life story from Liner Note Legends.

Charlie DoughertyOur second guest is Charlie Dougherty, bassist, composer/arranger, scholar, and educator in the New York City area. He is a co-founder and co-leader of Big Beat, a big band that blends jazz with soul and R&B music. Charlie’s performance experience is wide-ranging; he has performed at jazz festivals and with modern dance companies, and he has played everything from gospel music to the contemporary classical music of Louis Andriessen, Kyle Gann, and Judd Greenstein. As a composer/arranger, Charlie has written at the high school level and above for a variety of instrumentations, ranging from solo bass to saxophone ensemble to full big band. His writing experience includes arranging a piece for Joe Lovano and having a composition featured in a performance with the José Limón Dance Company.

Come on out of the cold and listen to an evening of great jazz music!


Diane Moser’s Composers Big Band Features Bob Hanlon, Joe Vilardi and George Russell’s “Jazz in the Space Age”

Bob HanlonWe are looking forward to this exciting December 10th concert, with guest tenor saxophonist/composer Bob Hanlon, and another fresh sound for big band from up and coming composer Joe Vilardi.

Bob will be the featured soloist, and playing duets with me on George Russell’s “Jazz in the Space Age”. We’ll also be performing two of Bob’s compositions: “Two Late Show”, “Eye to Eye” and “Umbria”.
Besides being a member of George Russell’s Big Band in the early eighties, Bob has toured with Pat Martino, and recorded with Gunther Hampel, Bill Frisell, Mike Kaplan and many others. He is on my quintet recording “Looking Forward, Looking Back”, which also features two current big band members Ben Williams and Andy Eulau, and our former drummer Barbara Allen. You can hear samples of that recording here.

Bob has a wonderful new recording out entitled “Trinomial”, with organist Mark Minchello, drummer Colby Inzer and guest guitarist Bob Devos.

Joe Vilardi is a young composer living in New York City in his final year at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. His medium ranges from sound installation to chamber orchestra and his inspiration comes from re-imagining nature. We will be performing his piece “Age of Fishes” which Joe describes as this: the first installment of a collection of pieces based on collective animal behavior. Special thanks go to bottle-nose dolphins everywhere for their great minds and inspiration.
I met Joe last year when he was a student in my “Sound in Time and Place; Music and Architecture” class at NSJCM. Joe’s music is compassionate, imaginative and will take you on a musical journey! You can read more about him on his website.

Geroge RussellIt was a remark made by Miles Davis when George asked him his musical aim which set Russell on the course which has been his life. Miles said he “wanted to learn all the changes.” Since Miles obviously knew all the changes, Russell surmised that what he meant was he wanted to learn a new way to relate to chords. This began a quest for Russell, he began to develop his “Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization.” First published in 1953, the Lydian Concept is credited with opening the way into modal music, as demonstrated by Miles in his seminal “Kind of Blue” recording. Using the Lydian Scale as the PRIMARY SCALE of Western music, the Lydian Chromatic Concept introduced the idea of chord/scale unity. It was the first theory to explore the vertical relationship between chords and scales, and was the only original theory to come from jazz. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, Russell continued to work on developing the Concept and leading bands under his direction.

That “quest” began In 1956, when George Russell formed a “Smalltet”, (sextet) and recorded “the Jazz Workshop”. Soon after that he recorded “New York, New York” with a a larger ensemble. “Jazz in the Space Age” (1960) was George’s third recording as a leader, while continuing to explore his Lydian Concept with an even larger ensemble. “Jazz in the Space Age” is a 7 part suite, with the main themes entitled “Chromatic Universe” as the beginning, middle and last section, and between those sections are “Two Dimensions”, “The Lydiot:Part 1 & Part 2” and”Waltz from Outer Space”. Pianists Bill Evans and Paul Bley were the primary soloists-duet partners throughout the suite. Bob Hanlon and myself will take on those roles.
The music is filled with overlapping multiple time signatures, Lydian Concept Modalities, with structured and free improvisation, and all of it is swingin’!

In this article written for NewMusicBox (10/25/13), Ratzo B. Harris describes George’s work.
“Integration of philosophy, theory, composition, teaching, and performance was key to Russell’s vision of making music unfettered by cliché, but still rooted in the jazz tradition. His strategy to achieve this included writing for ensembles with a fixed personnel of musicians who would learn to improvise by what he called “The Concept” (even to the point of writing out solo passages) or who had already developed their own unique musical language.”

George Russell's  Jazz in the Space Age
George Russell’s
Jazz in the Space Age
After “Jazz in the Space Age”, George continued on with a few more somewhat space theme recordings: “Stratusphunk” (1960),”The Stratus Seekers” (1962), and ”The Outer View” (1962) where you’ll find the track “Blues in Orbit”, a Russell composition that would be arranged and recorded again at a later date by Gil Evans.
There is no doubt that George Russell was a pioneer in jazz composition and arranging, constantly seeking new ways to explore the tradition of jazz by developing his own concept for improvisation and composition. He also invited other composers like Carla Bley, whose composition, “Zig-Zag” appears on “The Outer View”.
The music only grows when we all share in the process, a philosophy that drives our big band as well.

Night LightsWhile I was “mining” the internet for more information on “Jazz in the Space Age”, I came across a program that had aired on Indiana Public Radio; ”Goin’ Up:Space Age Jazz” from the program “Night Lights” with Host David Brent Johnson.

This is a great program that you can listen to online. Johnson compiled a list of various artists who composed, arranged and recorded what he calls: “Space Age Jazz”–the story of how some 1950s and 60s jazz adventurers were influenced by the Cold War race for space”. I talked about this in a previous post, so I was delighted to find a kindred soul who is just as fascinated about this as I am!

Johnson provides a wonderful overview of this time period and chose a very diverse selection of music, all dealing with space themes. On the program you’ll hear:
Mist o’ the Moon-Samuel Hoffman — Music Out of the Moon/Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman and the Theremin (Basta, 1947)
Saturday Night On Saturn-Les Baxter — Space Escapade (El Records, 1958)
March of the Martians-Shorty Rogers — Martians Come Back/Way Up There (Collectables, 1957)
Race for Space-Curtis Counce — Exploring the Future (Dootone/Boplicity, 1958)
Ballet of the Flying Saucers-Duke Ellington — A Drum Is a Woman (Jazz Track, 1956)
Four Moons-Gil Melle — Complete Blue Note Fifties Sessions (Blue Note, 1952)
Swingin’ On the Moon-Mel Torme — Swingin’ On the Moon (Polygram, 1962)
Mars-Gil Melle — Complete Blue Note Fifties Sessions (Blue Note, 1952)
Saturn-Sun Ra — Greatest Hits: Easy Listening for Intergalactic Travel (Evidence, 1956)
We Travel the Spaceways-Sun Ra — Greatest Hits: Easy Listening for Intergalactic Travel (Evidence, 1962)
Venus-Russ Garcia — Fantastica (Basta, 1959)
Out of This World (check this out, complete with theremin!)-Frank Comstock — Project Comstock (Mr. Nobody, 1962)
Up There In Orbit-Earl Bostic — Dance Music From the Bostic Workshop (King, 1959)
Blues in Orbit (alternate take)-Duke Ellington — Blues In Orbit (Sony, 1959)

Johnson also includes excerpts of Duke Ellington’s essay (1957) “The Race for Space”.
The essay wasn’t published at the time that Duke wrote it, he only typed his thoughts on a piece of paper which then ended up in the Duke Ellington Collection at the Smithsonian Institute. You can now find it in The Duke Ellington Reader”, 1996 Oxford University Press, edited by Mark Turner.
I did a little digging and found the essay online and included a few excerpts below.

Ellington“In jazz, as in the sciences, I am in a medium for creators. Those who write the great symphonies and those who write the great jazz classics are of the same creative mold of the men who put Sputnik into space and those who will follow this mighty Russian achievement with other space satellites and miracles. All of them-musicians, physicists, mathematicians, geneticists, biologists,geologists, astronomers, atomic researchers-are motivated by the same burning urge to create, whether in science or in jazz. I consider Sputnik a work of art in the same sense that I view a great painting, read a great poem or listen to a great work of music.”

Ellington goes on to talk about people of different races and ethnicity who have come together and made sacrifices for the advancement of science, politics, and most importantly freedom. He talks about this in terms of harmony between peoples is much like harmony in music; “For, as in music, harmony-harmony of thought, must have prevailed in order for the scientists to make a moon that would work. To obtain harmony, the notes must be blended in such a fashion that there is no room for discord.”

He then goes on to talk about where harmony is missing in America; in politics, social life, religion, expression of freedom and much more. He ends the essay with this:

“So this is my view on the race for space,” he concluded. “We’ll never get it until we Americans, collectively and individually, get us a new sound. A new sound of harmony, brotherly love, common respect and consideration for the dignity and freedom of men.”