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Bob Stewart Tuba Competition Set for Duke Ellington Center for the Arts, 10/20

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The 1st Annual Bob Stewart Tuba Competition, created by The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts, will be held on Saturday, October 20, 2012 from 12 Noon to 5 PM as part of The 37th Annual 52nd Street Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. The competition has been created to provide enhanced exposure to the many dynamic tuba players who perform in improvisational music ensembles in and around the New York area. The five groups chosen for the competition perform in a wide range of genres from traditional and contemporary Jazz to Blues, hip-hop, funk rock and world music. 

"They are five of the top-rated music ensembles today whose musical repertoires are built around the tuba,” said Bob Stewart, a world-famous tuba player and Board member of the Duke Ellington Center, who is coordinating the competition. “I was very fortunate to have had wonderful opportunities as a young tuba player, and through this competition I’d like to show my appreciation for those who helped me launch my career by sharing my knowledge and experience with some of the young musical lions of today,” Mr. Stewart said. “It is my sincere hope that this forum will shine a spotlight on some very deserving musicians and spread the appreciation of the tuba’s unique voice in today’s textured and rich music scene."

Participating in the 1st Bob Stewart Tuba Competition are these five music organizations: the ten member Pitch Blak Brass Band, who describe their musical style as ‘Hip-Hop Brass’; Ralph Hamperian’s Tuba D’Amore, a five piece ensemble specializing in ‘Hard Bop’; Stumblebum Brass Band, a trio specializing in ‘Punk Influenced Rock’; Tuba Joe and the New Tuba Love, a quintet that performs ‘Rock/Jazz/Funk’; and Kenneth Bentley’s Color 4, a four-piece ensemble specializing in ‘Contemporary Jazz.’

The judges for the competition are Larry Kerchner, a renowned songwriter, arranger and composer and a member of the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame, and Marcus Rojas, a world famous tuba player, teacher and composer.

As a warm-up to the Tuba Competition, the first two hours of the 52nd Street Jazz Festival on October 20 -- 12 Noon to 2 PM – will feature a Trio composed of members of the Duke Ellington Center Big Band in an all-Ellington music program featuring jazz vocalists Marion Cowings and Antoinette Montague, tap dancer Alex Cowings, ballroom dancer Michael Choi and his partner.

A small “traveling tuba ensemble” will perform along 52nd Street between 5th and 7th Avenues, and at the CBS Broadcast Plaza at the corner of 52nd Street and 6th Avenue, to ‘promote’ the competition in the hours before it begins. The entire five-hour program, including the Tuba Competition and the Jazz musical performances preceding it, will take place on the Festival Performance Stage located on the northeast corner of 52nd Street and 6th Avenue, directly opposite of the CBS Broadcast Center.

The Tuba Competition Guidelines

- Each ensemble must play one original arrangement of a Duke Ellington composition and at least three pieces from the group’s own repertoire.

- Eligible ensembles must include between three and ten musicians and the Tuba player must have a prominent role as either an ensemble horn and/or tuba bass.

- The performance time is 25 minutes total per group.

- Winner and possible runners-up will be invited to perform (as a paid gig) at a future Duke Ellington Center of the Arts event or events, and tuba players in the 1st and/or 2nd Place winning ensembles will be invited to perform at venues in the New York area with the Duke Ellington Center Big Band.

In the earliest years, jazz bands often used the tuba for outdoor playing and a double bass for indoor performances. In this context, the tuba was sometimes called ‘brass bass,’ as opposed to the double bass, which was called ‘string bass.’ It was not uncommon for players to double on both instruments. When used in modern jazz, tubas usually fill the traditional bass role, and they often take solos. New Orleans style Brass Bands, like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Band, use a sousaphone as the bass instrument. Bill Barber played tuba on several MiLes Davis albums, including Birth of the Cool and Miles Ahead , and tubist Marcus Rojas, one of our judges, has performed frequently with Henry Threadgill.

Mr. Stewart agrees that the tuba has long been one of the most important instruments in the jazz world, especially in New Orleans. “From the legendary marching brass bands who have patrolled the streets of Bourbon Street for ages to jazz orchestras who perform in prestigious concert halls across the world, the distinctive sound of the tuba has been a major component of jazz compositions written and created by current and past jazz greats, among them Duke Ellington,” he said.

Bob Stewart (Yamaha Artist and Competition Coordinator)

Over the last 40 years Bob Stewart has established himself as both an innovative tuba player and equally creative jazz educator. In addition to embracing the tuba’s historical position as the original bass instrument in jazz, Mr. Stewart’s focus on reintroducing it into a contemporary band setting has encouraged many tuba players and band leaders to explore this approach.

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