Blair Big Band - Such Sweet Thunder

What you are listening to is the first of what will be a terrific series of recordings. But it’s not a beginning effort. It’s the culmination of a dynamic, incredibly fast flowering of the jazz program at Vanderbilt University.

The Blair School of Music is relatively young—the collegiate program began in 1986, and the jazz program is even younger. Billy Adair’s pioneering efforts developed a solid big band, while Roger Spencer started a great combo program. After Billy’s death in 2014, Ryan Middagh has led jazz at Blair to soaring heights, as this album shows.

One of the things that makes the Blair School special is that we’re always working together: collegial faculty, students who bond to one another, and—this is quite rare—students and faculty collaborating, playing together in various combinations. Chamber music and jazz are the best examples of this, and on this CD you’ll hear students and faculty members making music and making magicas colleagues.

Track 9 represents a capsule history of jazz at Blair. “The Very Thought of You” is a Billy Adair arrangement, with Beegie Adair (Billy’s wife) on piano and Jeremy Wilson on trombone. It’s a wonderful tribute to Billy, and it was done on the first take.

You’ll also hear the exceptional student talent that has flourished under Ryan Middagh’s direction. Track 7, “Sivan,” was composed by one of our star students, David Rodgers, who is already an established pro. In David’s music, you hear the future. We’ll continue to hear from him for decades to come.

The Blair Big Band’s first CD is so good and so exciting, we have to give credit where it’s due. Ryan Middagh is the driving force of jazz at Blair. Besides taking this group to new heights, he composed two of the pieces on this album (“Sorry Not Sorry” and “Indra Kunindra,” tracks 1 and 4), and he arranged two others. And several faculty members contributed their efforts, as well: Beegie Adair, Jeff Coffin, Jerry Kimbrough, Roger Spencer, Christina Watson, and Jeremy Wilson.

Everyone on this album can take great pride in it. I certainly do, because I have the privilege of working with these superb artists. And I can’t wait for the next album.

—Mark Wait, Dean, Blair School of Music