The 35th TD Winnipeg International Jazz festival kicked off on Friday, June 14th. Featuring some of the best local and international jazz musicians performing over nine nights, this year's festival features a killer line up of talent. 

In celebration of this beloved Winnipeg summer tradition, Classic 107 will feature jazz-inspired compositions every day this week during the 1 p.m. hour:

Monday, June 17: Leonard Bernstein — Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1960) 


This classic take on the Romeo and Juliet story was written in the mid-1950s and features lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a concept created by Jerome Robbins. The Montagues and Capulets were adapted into two street gangs: the Whites known as the Jets and The Puerto Ricans known as the Sharks. 

When West Side Story premiered on Broadway in 1957 it was an immediate success and is now regarded as one of the iconic musicals of the twentieth century. 

Bernstein revisited the music in 1960 and extracted nine excerpts and put them together to create The Symphonic Dances. 

  1. "Prologue": Tensions grow between the two gangs. 

  1. "Somewhere": In a dream, friendship unites the two gangs. 

  1. "Scherzo": In the dream, the gangs leave the city and find themselves in a "playful world of space, air, and sun"[1] 

  1. "Mambo: Returning to the real world, the gangs participate in a competitive dance at the gym. 

  1. "Cha cha": Maria and Tony first meet and dance together. 

  1. "Meeting scene": They speak their first words to each other. 

  1. "Cool": Riff, the leader of the Jets, encourages his gang to harness their impulsive hostility. 

  1. "Rumble": In a gang battle, Riff, Bernardo (the leader of the Sharks), and Tony are killed. 

  1. "Finale": The two gangs, realizing that violence is no solution, reconcile and unite, fulfilling the vision of "Somewhere" 


Tuesday, June 18: Duke Ellington — Harlem (1950-51) and Aaron Copland — Clarinet Concerto (1947-1949) 


Commissioned by Arturo Toscanini in 1950 to be part of a larger New York City inspired suite. Ellington wrote Harlem as a tribute to the neighborhood he loved. As he said of the piece:   

We would now like to take you on a tour of this place called Harlem... It is Sunday morning. We a strolling from 110th Street up Seventh Avenue, heading north through the Spanish and West Indian neighborhood towards the 125th Street business area... You may hear a parade go by, or a funeral, or you may recognize the passage of those who are making Civil Rights demands  

In the end, the suite never came to fruition, and the premiere of Harlem was done by Ellington and his band for a NAACP fundraiser held at the Metropolitan Opera house. The work exists in two versions: one for jazz band and one for full symphony orchestra. 

Subtitled "A Tone Parallel to Harlem," this 15-minute-long piece turns a symphony orchestra into a full out big band.  

Listeners can expect a double bill on Tuesday. Paired with Ellington’s "Harlem", is Copland’s lyrically beautiful, and jazzy clarinet concerto. 

Commissioned by the legendary clarinetist Benny Goodman in 1947 for $2000.00 (which was a lot of money in the mid-1940s). This work is one of Copland’s most frequently performed and beloved compositions. 

Copland started work on the concerto while he was in Rio de Janeiro doing some lecturing and conducting. The music of Brazil makes its way into the last section of the concerto 

In three parts that are played without break, the concerto starts out with a gorgeous slow opening, reminiscent of some of the sounds that would make Copland’s music so popular with audiences -- think: the opening to Appalachian Spring or the music from Our Town. The second section serves as jazzy virtuosic cadenza for just clarinet alone, which then leads into a third section that is full of Latin-American and jazz influences. 

Wednesday, June 19: William Grant Still — Afro-American Symphony: Symphony no1 (1930) 


June 19th is known as "Juneteenth," a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the American South.  

On this significant day, it seems only fitting to have music written by a composer who is sometimes called the "Dean of African American composers," William Grant Still. 

Written in 1930, Grant Still’s Afro-American symphony was the first symphony written by a Black composer to be premiered by a major American orchestra when it was played by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra a year later.  

The symphony would help give Grant Still an international reputation, with the symphony being performed throughout Europe. 

Still’s most distinctive works are nationalistic, using African American forms such as the blues, spirituals, and jazz in addition to other ethnic American music.  

The Symphony no. 1 is in effect a “blues symphony:” the sounds of the blues and blues forms permeate the symphony  throughout.  

Thursday, June 20: George Gershwin/Robert Russel Bennet — Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture (1942) 


Based on George Gershwin’s hugely popular opera "Porgy and Bess," the Symphonic Picture was created for the conductor Fritz Reiner and the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra. Reiner was a favored conductor of Gershwin's -- in fact, he conducted the second-ever performance of "An American in Paris." 

The Symphonic Picture was put together by Gershwin’s friend and sometimes assistant Robert Russel Bennet. Reiner had a specific plan for the piece. He had laid out the excerpts he wanted, and in some places even suggested keys. Bennet, with the blessing of Gershwin, put together this orchestral masterwork, consisting of 11 of the best-known numbers from the opera: 

  1. Scene in Catfish Row (with peddlers’ calls; Strawberry Woman; Crab Man) 

  1. Opening Act 3 “Clara, Clara” (Requiem) 

  1. Opening Act 1 (Introduction) 

  1. Summertime 

  1. I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ 

  1. Storm Music (Hurricane) 

  1. Bess, You Is My Woman Now 

  1. The Picnic Party (Oh, I Can't Sit Down) 

  1. There's a Boat Dat's Leavin’ Soon for New York 

  1. It Ain’t Necessarily So 

  1. Finale (Oh, Lawd, I'm On My Way) 

Friday, June 21: Dana Suesse — Concerto in 3 Rhythms (1932) 


Born in Kansas City in 1909, Dana Suesse got her musical start on the vaudeville circuit, performing as a dancer and piano player. 

Suesse ended up moving to New York to study jazz and jazz composition with the Rubin Goldmark -- the same teacher George Gershwin had. With the rise of Tin Pan Alley the was happening in New York, she was exposed to some of the greatest jazz luminaries of the day. 

In 1932, Paul Whiteman, leader of the Paul Whiteman Big Band, approached her to write a jazz band concerto, resulting in her Concerto in Three Rhythms. The piece would eventually be orchestrated for full orchestra by the composer Ferde Grofe. 

The Three movements of the Concerto are as follows 

1. Fox Trot: Allegro ma non troppo 

2.Blues: Adagio 

3. Rag: Presto 

Tune in all this week to hear these jazz influenced works! 

Only on Classic 107...