Jazz is not the only art form to contain improvisation, but in jazz the discipline of improvisation is developed to a very high level. Far from a casual, occasional exercise, improvisation in jazz is something that beginning players struggle to master, and that professionals spend their lives honing, refining, and changing. To this day, musicians study the recorded improvisations of such masters as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Herbie Hancock in order to gain insights and inspiration.
Dr. Lewis Porter will explore jazz improvisation with Andy Stein, violinist for A Prairie Home Companion. The presentation will consist of performances of short improvised pieces in both classical and jazz styles, followed by discussion. For each piece, the performers will explain the basis of the improvisation—there is always some starting point, often written out on music paper or memorized. After performing a piece and discussing it, the musicians will take questions from the audience. Four or five pieces will be performed in this unique 90 minute presentation.
Dr. Lewis Porter is a jazz pianist, author, and educator. He is Professor of Music at Rutgers University in Newark, where he is the founding Director of the Master's Program in Jazz History and Research. He is the author or coauthor of six books, including the acclaimed study John Coltrane: His Life and Music. He has written numerous articles and liner notes, and edits a book series and a scholarly journal. He has performed recently with such artists as Wycliffe Gordon, Ravi Coltrane, Dave Liebman, and Jeff Coffin. His latest CD, recorded live at Siena Jazz, is Italian Encounter. Jazz Times recently described Porter as "a helluva pianist."
Andy Stein is a violinist and saxophonist whose numerous accomplishments include recording with Itzhak Perlman, Placido Domingo, touring China with a string quartet, and performing major concertos with orchestras across the United States. Television appearances include David Letterman, Saturday Night Live, and Great performances. He has been a featured soloist in a number of Broadway Shows, and conducted on radio and television. Stein entered popular and country music as a founding member of Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, and subsequently worked with Bonnie Rait, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, B. B. King, Eric Clapton, Tony Bennet, James Taylor, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis Costello, among many others. He received a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental in 1978. In the jazz field he has worked with Wynton Marsalis, Paquito D'Rivera, Phil Woods, Manhattan Transfer, Jon Hendricks, and Andy Bey, among others. For the past twenty years his violin and saxophone have been heard weekly on public radio, in the house band of A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. He is also featured prominently in the Robert Altman film of the same name. Other film work includes several Disney productions, Ken Burns documentaries, The Aviator, DeLovely, and The Red Violin.