The blues. Has a more American declaration been uttered; “I have the blues,” “chase away the blues,” “do you feel blue?” In academia we teach a blues scale, a blues form, a blues progression-they are all both tragically incorrect and correct simultaneously-just like blues-based music, the major and minor, the happy and sad, connected in real time. The late Stanley Crouch, a major force in the jazz world for the past two generations, wrote, “The blues creates that aesthetic feeling in which the worst, the middling, or the best experiences met and were resolved into a jubilant or contemplative melancholy.” From the beginning, jazz musicians have molded, shaped, cried, stomped, and swung the blues as a means of expression and survival. It was and is the differentiating aspect of our music-from players to composers-it is elemental to jazz. And as blues-based music it is optimistic without naivete. It is sophisticated and common, high and low, the blues never lets tragedy have the last word.
Nothin’ but the Blues will feature nearly a century of exploration of the blues as filtered through the minds of America’s greatest jazz composers and arrangers. A program of such diversity that it covers a spectrum of offerings from Fletcher Henderson (1925) to Christopher Crenshaw (2010) and in between are Charles Mingus, Mary Lou Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerald Wilson, Basie, of course the great Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington-who could take the blues, dress it up in its Sunday best, and one would never suspect that “Saturday night had indeed ensued.” His work will close the concert, perhaps the greatest blues statement ever composed, the magnus opus, “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” performed in its 1956 version that nearly caused a joyous riot at the otherwise staid Newport Jazz Festival.
Christopher McDole again joins the SSJO to shout and sing the blues, joining the continuum of such greats as Joe Williams, Billy Eckstine, and Jimmy Rushing.
The great American intellectual Albert Murray writes about the blues:
“You wake up in the morning and realize that if you look really hard at what some of your possibilities are, life is a low-down dirty shame that shouldn’t happen to a dog. That’s what the function of all art is. Inspiration. You’re inspired to dance, to get with it, to get on with it, to be yourself, to be with somebody else. You don’t kid yourself about the fact that life is rough, you accept that life is rough — that means you accept the necessity for struggle which makes you stronger.”
The SSJO is composed of some of the finest jazz musicians in the region. Established artists blend with up-and-coming talent to create an ensemble of unparalleled power, finesse, and energy. Our special guest soloist is 22-year old pianist Isaiah J. Thompson, a native of Newark, NJ and Juilliard graduate who is fresh off an international tour with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis. SSJO featured soloists include tenor saxophone powerhouse Eddie Bayard, a central Ohio legend with a national reputation for fire and soul; former OSU jazz faculty member Pharez Whitted on trumpet; southwest Ohio’s inimitable Hal Melia on tenor saxophone and clarinet; and 19-year old vocal prodigy Christopher McDole.
In his three-decade career as an educator, administrator, performer and conductor, Todd Stoll has travelled to 4 continents and 22 countries bringing jazz to people of all ages and diverse backgrounds. After a 20-year career as an educator and band leader in central Ohio, Mr. Stoll became the Vice President of Education at Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) in New York City, the world’s largest institution dedicated to jazz. Since he joined the organization in 2011, JALC has produced more than 25,000 education events in the US and abroad. In his position there, he has grown the education program exponentially, with a special focus on underserved populations in urban cities across America. JALC’s innovative Essentially Ellington high school jazz band program has expanded during his tenure, providing 300,000 free scores to nearly 7,000 high schools in all 50 states and 57 countries.
An experienced performer, Duke Ellington expert, and jazz advocate, Mr. Stoll founded the Columbus Jazz Youth Orchestra (CJYO) in 1991 to give young people the chance to cultivate a love of jazz through performance. He served as the director until 2011. Under his direction, the CJYO released six CDs, won a DownBeat award, and toured Europe and South America. As a performer, he has appeared with numerous ensembles across several genres, and can be heard on Sirius XM radio with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
An in demand conductor and clinician Mr. Stoll has appeared with numerous all state ensembles, the NAFME All National Honors Jazz Ensemble, and in Havana, Cuba at renowned music conservatories Amadeo Roldan and La Escuela Nacional de Arte.
Mr. Stoll holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor of Music degree from Miami University. He currently serves on the boards of the Jazz Education Network where he is President; the New York City chapter of Most Valuable Kids; and the National Association for Music Education Policy Roundtable.