Queens College Musicians Celebrate Gershwin's RHAPSODY IN BLUE Tonight
Playing to a sold-out Aeolian Hall on February 12, 1924, violinist-conductor Paul Whiteman led his dance band in a program of popular and jazz repertoire. His "Experiment in Modern Music" culminated in the premiere of a piece commissioned for the occasion: Rhapsody in Blue, featuring its composer, George Gershwin, at the piano.
Now, exactly 90 years later, internationally-known conductor Maurice Peress, professor at the Queens College Aaron Copland School of Music, is teaming up with the Grammy Award-winning Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks to reprise that legendary performance.
The commemorative concert, taking place tonight, February 12, at 8 pm at The Town Hall (123 West 43rd Street, Manhattan), will faithfully replicate the original, which mixed novelties such as "Livery Stable Blues," with its mock horse whinnies and chicken squawks, and standards by Irving Berlin, Victor Herbert, and Jerome Kern. Virtuosos from the 22-piece Nighthawks-augmented for this date by guest artists-will recreate individual solos from vintage recordings. Jazz pianist Jeb Patton will channel keyboard wizard Zez Confrey, composer of "Dizzy Fingers," while Andy Stein, known for his work on "A Prairie Home Companion," will cover Whiteman's role on violin. Ted Rosenthal, a winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition who teaches at the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, will be a featured soloist.
"With his Rhapsody in Blue for solo piano and jazz band, Gershwin took a giant step for American music," notes Peress, who immersed himself in musical archives to prepare for this event. "It is indisputably the first American orchestral work shaped from blues and ragtime that crossed over and found a welcome place in the standard orchestral repertoire."