THE RJO BLOG

News and Articles

Do You Remember the 21st Night of September?

I bet that most of you reading this know the Earth, Wind and Fire (EWF) song the above lyric came from and you can sing it! Since we are recording it as a part of EWF recording project I thought I would share a little of the song’s background first. Then introduce you to two of the musicians performing and lastly a quick project update.

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Bringing Musicians Together in a Socially Distant World Pt. 2

With the help of our sponsors the Reno Jazz Orchestra’s (RJO) Earth, Wind, and Fire (EWF) recording project is underway. Last month I provided an overview of the project and here is an update...

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RJO Celebrates Earth, Wind, and Fire

The Reno Jazz Orchestra’s (RJO) Artown and Sand Harbor summer concerts were to be “Earth, Wind, and Fire Now, Then, and Forever – Celebrating Earth, Wind, and Fire (EWF)” and, of course, they are postponed till next summer.  Prior to cancellation we were well underway preparing the program; music chosen, music arrangers writing the material for the orchestra, and singers rehearsing.

After several brainstorming session we thought perhaps there would be a way to record all the material professionally and my next few articles will cover that process... 

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I Hope in Time a Change Will Come

Racism has been a plague on humanity reaching back to the Pharaohs over 5,000 years ago and continues to haunt us to this day.  I was disheartened when the Black Lives Matter marches began as a result of black deaths at the hands of police.  Why? 

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Reno Jazz in the World

The Reno Jazz Orchestra’s mission (RJO) is focused on jazz performance and education. My article this month introduces you to three Reno musicians who graduated from UNR, performed with the RJO, and are now out in the world creating new music for this generation. 

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Brubeck Jazz Summit – Incline Village

Summit Dates: July 19th - 25th, 2020

Classical Tahoe is bringing the Brubeck Jazz Summit to Sierra Nevada University this summer which is the main event for this month’s column, but first a Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) update... 

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The Art of Jazz in the time of Social Distancing

We are all coping with Covid-19 as best we can so I thought today I would share how three local musicians are keeping jazz and more importantly our spirits alive and well. Let’s start with Dallas Smith.

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Josh Reed and Julien Knowles

Today's article focuses on the "new". Two trumpet players and a first time Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) performance in Minden...

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Headliners for RJO's 2020 Concert Season

Diane Schuur and "Now, Then, Forever, celebrating Earth Wind and Fire" headline the RJO's 2020 concert season.

With a successful Jazz in the Schools weekend and our first concert in Minden in our rear-view mirror, I thought now would be a good time to let you know what the rest of 2020 will bring. Let me start with our two summer programs.

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Jazz in the Schools 2020

It is a brand new year and all of the holiday trimmings are tucked away for next year so our thoughts turn to… well jazz of course! Kicking off the Reno Jazz Orchestra’s (RJO) new year is our annual Jazz in the Schools event February 8th at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR).  Under the direction of Jazz in the Schools director, Andy Heglund, we are pleased to partner with UNR for a full day of student performances, clinics, and an afternoon concert featuring the RJO and the UNR jazz faculty quintet performing the music of Oliver Nelson.  Here is what to look forward to...

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Thank You Northern Nevada

Every year the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) ends our holiday concert with “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”, a love letter to our community. During the course of the year we all tend to forget those things most important to us, so the holiday season is a time to give thanks to those we hold dear. For twenty-two years northern Nevada’s support has enabled us to bring great jazz and jazz education to the community. Today’s article highlights what the RJO has accomplished with your support. Let me start with our education programs...

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Home for the Holidays

This year the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) is presenting “Home for the Holidays” featuring trombone virtuoso Bob McChesney, his wife vocalist/violinist Calabria Foti, special guests the Reno Youth Jazz Orchestra, and a very special appearance of the “Hot Holly Dolls”!  Performances are December 13th 7:30 pm and December 14th 2:00 pm at the Cargo Concert Hall at the Whitney Peak Hotel.  After last year’s tour of holiday music from around the world we decided to stay home by the fire and cozy up to those great Christmas songs you know and love.  Just jazzed up a bit!  Both McChesney and Foti are artists in their own right with solo recordings who are also featured on other artist’s recordings, as well as movie soundtracks.  Both are passionate music educators.  Needless to say they are very busy folks and we are delighted they can join us.   

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Stan Kenton - Artistry in Jazz

Each spring and fall we host a concert at the intimate one hundred seat Good Luck Macbeth theater in mid-town.  This November 8th and 9th we are featuring the music of Stan Kenton, legendary bandleader and pioneer in jazz education.  A perfect fit as our guest conductor is Vern Scarbrough, director of the Reno Youth Orchestra, and students participating in our Saturday morning jazz workshop open the concert.  First, let me tell you about Kenton and his connection to jazz education...

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Jazz Orchestras, A Great American Heritage

I have been fortunate to lead the Reno Jazz Orchestra since 2006, and over the years we have grown due to the support of our community. Thank you all! This month we will revisit the origins of the jazz orchestra, after which I will share three new RJO projects that honor the past and look to the future...

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A Family Of Music

It is my pleasure to introduce you to two members of the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) family, Andy and Nichole Heglund. Andy has been the RJO’s drummer for over ten years and a past president.  Nichole joined us this spring to head our jazz education programs. 

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Kurt Elling – An American Music Journey

Artown has wrapped up and the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) was honored to present “The Queen of Soul, A Loving Tribute to Aretha Franklin” to our community at three venues to full houses.  Over the thirteen years of being the RJO’s Music Director people have gotten to know me and when out and about I will often hear, “hey, you’re the jazz guy”.  A moniker I am happy to wear.  It is the support of the community over our twenty-two years that allows us to bring great American music to the Reno/Tahoe area.  That support has enabled us to bring one of the country’s greatest singers this Labor Day weekend to the Pioneer Theater and the Sand Harbor Amphitheater.  His name is Kurt Elling and if you don’t know the name let me introduce you...

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A Loving Tribute to Aretha Franklin

The Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) will present “The Queen of Soul, a Loving Tribute to Aretha Franklin” July 15th at the Hawkins Amphitheater as an Artown presentation and July 22nd at the Sand Harbor Trepp Amphitheater.  Both shows start at 7:30 pm.  The RJO firmly embraces Duke Ellington’s famous quote “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.”  We chose this tribute to celebrate a true American original.

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A Jazz Orchestra for the New Millennium

The Reno Jazz Orchestra’s recent concerts at the Good Luck Macbeth theater May 31 and June 1 featured the compositions and arrangements of Vince Mendoza. I suspect most of you have not heard his name, but I am certain you have heard his music. With 22 recordings as arranger-conductor for a wide range of artists from Joni Mitchell to Joe Zawinul, 15 recordings of his original compositions, six Grammy awards and 25 Grammy nominations, his work is widely heard.

So why don’t you recognize his name? He follows in the legendary footsteps of other composer-arranger-conductors such as Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Billy May and Claus Ogerman. Most of you have heard of Quincy Jones, but what about the others? All of these gentlemen were well-versed in both jazz and popular music worlds and expanded the musical palette of a jazz orchestra. This leads me to the topic of today’s column: What does the future jazz orchestra in the new millennium sound like?

 

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Reno Jazz Festival, 57 Years of Great Jazz

The fifty-seventh three-day Reno Jazz Festival (RJF) concluded April 27th and it thrills me to tell you twenty-six local school big bands, combos, and choirs participated and received accolades including outstanding Nevada High School ensemble and Middle School Choir...

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Where in the World Will Jazz Take You?

This month’s column introduces you to two Reno jazz artists, trumpeter Dickie Mills and saxophonist Chris Casaceli. Mills recently turned 90 and has been a Reno jazz stalwart since the 1950s and Casaceli is joining the professional music community after recently graduating from the University of Oregon. 

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Business, Non-Profits, and All That Jazz

This month’s article illustrates the synergy between business, non-profits, and what the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) does best… All that Jazz.  We will be performing April 30th at our home in Midtown for a Northern Nevada HOPES fundraiser and later that week May 2nd at the Chateau in Incline Village to fundraise for Tahoe Family Solutions.  It is the generosity of local businesses sponsoring the RJO’s performance at both events which brings together jazz and non-profits.

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RJO Concert Season of 2019

Kurt Elling and a Loving tribute to Aretha Franklin headline the RJO concert season

With a successful Jazz in the Schools weekend in our rear-view mirror I thought now would be a good time to let you know what the rest of 2019 will bring.  Let me start with our two summer programs...

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Jazz in the Schools 2019

Winter got you in a funk?  Get out of that funk by experiencing our annual Jazz in the Schools weekend 2/9 through 2/10.  The Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) and the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) will host a full weekend of big band jazz in the Church Fine Arts building on the UNR campus.  Under the guidance of Dr. Andy Heglund, Jazz in the Schools has grown from a one-day event to four, so let me tell you what you can expect.

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The Art of Recording in Reno

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to two honorary members of the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO).  They don’t take the stage but are vital in bringing the RJO to your ears.  Mike Eardley and Tom Gordon are local recording engineers with their own studios that record us, maximize the recorded sound quality, and mix all the tracks (each instrument is on its own track), and then make it ready for a CD or digital release.  These guys know their craft and turn a rough gem into a polished product that sparkles.  I think its magic, at least that is what they tell me! 

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Northern Nevada - We Love You Madly

The Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) turned twenty-one this year.  Thank you northern Nevada for believing in our mission and supporting us all these years.    In 1997 we started performing at the Continental Lodge on the corner of Virginia Street and Plumb Lane to standing room crowds.  Just three of the founding band remain, myself, trombonist Rich Lewis, and tenor saxophonist Jim Garaventa, but the spirit of the original band is still with us.  It is a strong motivation to share our love of jazz and inspire the next generation of jazz musicians...

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'Gem of a singer' Tierney Sutton

Labor Day. Our great American holiday is the perfect weekend to showcase the Great American Songbook. Many singers visit the Great American Songbook, but it is the gifted singer that can present a gem of a song in a new light by changing the angle a bit to reveal new facets.

Eight-time Grammy nominee Tierney Sutton is truly one of those gifted singers. The Reno Jazz Orchestra is pleased to share the stage with Sutton on Friday, Aug. 31 at the Cargo Concert Hall in the Whitney Peak Hotel and Saturday, Sept. 1 at the Sand Harbor Amphitheater in Incline Village... 

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RJO Honors A Trio Of Jazz Legends

The Reno Jazz Orchestra celebrates New Orleans' 300th anniversary with “New Orleans – A Night in the Big Easy” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday,  July 28, 2018, at Wingfield Park. This article features the music and musicians, but first a pop quiz...

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Let the Good Times Roll

On July 28th the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) will present “New Orleans, A Night in the Big Easy” as a part of Artown. It seems a perfect match as Reno’s 150th anniversary coincides with New Orleans’ 300th anniversary!

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Maiden Voyage- The RJO in MidTown

May 18th and 19th the RJO will perform at our new home “the Union Hall” in Midtown.  Our maiden voyage!  ...Our first concert features the big band music of RJO bassist and member of the UNR jazz faculty Hans Halt.  You will hear his original compositions, arrangements of great jazz standards, and transcriptions.  There will also be some special guests...

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Exceptional Student Jazz- The Reno Youth Orchestra

When I heard that six Washoe County School District jazz students made Nevada All State ensembles and all of them members of the Reno Youth Jazz Orchestra (RYJO) I knew I had to touch base with RYJO Director Vern Scarbrough.  Vern and his wife Karen founded RYJO in 2006 and each year RYJO’s program has grown... 

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Good Luck Macbeth – We Tell Stories Here

This article is a first for me.  It’s not about jazz, but about our new partner sharing the old musicians’ union hall, the Good Luck Macbeth (GLM) theater group.  GLM recently completed its first production, “The Royale”, at our shared building...If you are not familiar with GLM they have been presenting theater productions for ten years in Midtown and are strong supporters of the Midtown district.      

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Young Lions Take the Stage

Why is the RJO so committed to this event?  The answer is simple.  Jazz is joyous and we want to share that joy.  Think of jazz founding father Louis Armstrong.  He set the standard that lives on today.  Of course, jazz imparts all the human emotions, but if there is one word to describe jazz I can’t think of a better one than joyous.  The RJO wants to introduce our students to jazz and encourage them to learn it, love it, and create their own brand of jazz.  That is how jazz stays vibrant and alive...

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Jazz Returns to Midtown

It is thrilling that the performing arts are returning to the musicians’ hall and the RJO is looking forward to a long productive working relationship with Good Luck MacBeth (GLM) and one more shout out to Brian Egan for making this happen! I have to say Reno is still the biggest little city in America and my story today is just one of many proving the point.

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Jazz for the Holidays – A Gospel Christmas

Every year the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) loves to host a holiday concert celebrating friends, family, and community.  We are pleased to announce Pat Ester’s Gospel Choir  will rejoin us in “Jazz for the Holidays – A Gospel Christmas”.  The performances are December 16th (7:30 PM), 17th (2:00 PM) at the Cargo Concert Hall in the Whitney Peak hotel, and 20th (7:00 PM) at Squaw Valley’s Olympic Village.  Jazz and Gospel, like much of American music, have their roots in the blues.  Both are joyful and when brought together a new, unforgettable, vibe happens that breaks the invisible barrier between audience and performer.  Those who joined us last year know what I mean.  It is an honor to work with Pat Ester’s Gospel choir under the direction of Lori Johnson.  Since jazz musicians and gospel singers rarely get a chance to join forces, this program is very special.

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The Difference Between Jazz Big Band & Orchestra

I always thought that a big band was primarily a swing era dance band and as bandleaders like Duke Ellington and Count Basie explored new sounds they moved from the dance hall to the concert hall and the jazz orchestra was born.  It turns out jazz orchestras date back to the early jazz of the 1920s...

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FTLOJ - For the Love of Jazz

For the Love of Jazz (FTLOJ) is northern Nevada’s jazz go to organization to find and enjoy your favorite jazz.  Founded in 1974, FTLOJ was and always will be a labor of love for the members who support and organize jazz events.  ...  I had the pleasure of speaking with the current president Scot Marshall and one of its founders, Bill Filter.  Here is what I found out.

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Jazz Goes Back to School

The Reno Jazz Orchestra enjoyed a wonderful summer of jazz performances, the Labor Day weekend has passed, and the balloons have left Rancho San Rafael so it must be time for jazz to head back to school with the RJO’s fall mentor program.  First maybe I should refresh your memories on what our mentor program provides.  Through generous grants and donations, the RJO brings jazz professionals to select schools in Washoe County to work with middle and high school jazz bands for the semester at no cost to the participating schools and students.  So how does this work?

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The Art of Song - An Evening with Denise Donatelli

Jazz has had a long love affair with the song.  All styles of American music from Tin Pan Alley and Broadway to rock, soul, blues, and country all find their way into the jazz lexicon.  Jazz musicians and vocalists thrive on choosing songs and then personalizing that song with new interpretations...  This Labor Day weekend the Reno Jazz Orchestra celebrates the art the American song through jazz “eyes” with Grammy nominated vocalist Denise Donatelli.

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Roots in the Blues

Great singers bring the blues to life and we are blessed with great vocal talent in the Reno-Tahoe area. It is a thrill that five of my favorite local singers are joining us for this upcoming concert. Some have performed with us several times and some are joining us for the first time so let me introduce them to you.

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Thank You Reno For 20 Great Years...

Over the last year I have been highlighting Reno’s jazz community from jazz professionals to student big band jazz to the Reno Jazz Festival. Today’s article is about the Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) because this year we are twenty years old. Those in the orchestra who have been a part since its inception in 1997 have been privileged to provide our community great big band performances. We are honored that our community has been there to support us. Thank you Reno, let’s do twenty more! But first let me give you a little of our past...

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RJO Old Friends Hans Halt and Bill Hecht

It is time to feature two old friends in my jazz world.  I have had the pleasure of working with Hans Halt and Bill Hecht for over thirty years (I can’t believe I just wrote that!) in a number of different jazz settings. 

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Brand New Day by Chuck Reider

Jazz is in the moment and each soloist tells their story through their improvised solo.  Every generation of jazz musicians develops their own “voice” to tell their story bringing a brand new day keeping jazz vibrant and alive.  With that in mind I want to introduce three jazz educators who are helping students find that voice and propel jazz into new frontiers.  The Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO), through our generous sponsors, provide a jazz education program at no cost to participating students or schools.

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Jazz- The Moment When the Journey Begins

The Reno Jazz Orchestra (RJO) hosted our annual Jazz in the Schools last month.  It was a full day of student performances and clinics on Saturday 2/11 followed the next day by a memorable performance by sax great Tom Scott and the RJO.  But if you are a young jazz musician with the desire to take the next step and maybe even play jazz professionally, what is your path?  Every jazz generation must forge their own path to meet new challenges. So this article highlights three local musicians who created their path and are passionate about helping the next generation create theirs.

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Sizzling Summer Coming for 2017

Jazz, rock, funk, soul, gospel all have roots in the blues and this summer the RJO brings it all together with their 17-piece live big band performing “Roots in the Blues” and “An Evening with Denise Donatelli” throughout Reno and Lake Tahoe.

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Jazz Combo Clinician Receives Artist Fellowship

Hans Halt has been participating as a Jazz Combo Clinician for the RJO's Jazz in the Schools for several years. Hans recently received an Artist Fellowship from the Nevada Arts Council.

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Young Lions: Jazz in the Schools 2017

It is a tradition in jazz to call up and coming stars of jazz “young lions” and on Saturday February 11th you will have a chance to meet the young lions of our community.  

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Jazz in the Schools Director Andy Heglund

Thanks to our percussionist Andy Heglund's direction, this year's Jazz in the Schools event at UNR was a wonderful success. Andy's dedication to music education is truly an inspiration to us all.

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