Jazz Composition Center Releases First CD

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 13, 2009) – The University of South Florida is proud to announce the release of the USF Center for Jazz Composition’s first album, The Comet’s Tail: Playing The Compositions of Michael Brecker. It was produced under the leadership of the center’s director, Distinguished University Professor of Jazz Studies Chuck Owen, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow.  Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge perform all of the selections on this homage to the late celebrated saxophonist. The CD was released on the MAMA label, part of the Summit Records Music Group.

The center’s debut album features the dynamic 17-piece Jazz Surge performing alongside some of Brecker’s longtime collaborators: his brother Randy Brecker as well as Joe Lovano, Mike Stern, Mike Mainieri, Dave Liebman and Adam Nussbaum, along with the work of frequent behind-the-scenes Brecker arrangers, Gil Goldstein and Vince Mendoza.


 “This is the culmination of a project that began in 2006,” said Owen. “We wanted to focus attention on the compositions of a great jazz artist while, at the same time, stimulating the creation of new works.  To accomplish this, the center first launched an International Jazz Arranging Competition in Michael Brecker’s honor.”


Over 80 works from five countries were submitted. Brecker’s composition “Peep,” scored by Vancouver music arranger Fred Stride won the competition and was selected to be featured on the album. 


 “We were truly impressed by the quality and diversity of the works we received,” said Owen. “Fred Stride’s winning submission is a thrilling, no-holds-barred, roller coaster ride that captures Brecker’s approach to jazz.” 


CJC also commissioned arrangements of Brecker compositions from noted composers Goldstein and Mendoza. Goldstein chose to re-orchestrate a tune he had just finished arranging for Michael’s last recording, Pilgrimage.  Mendoza picked “Slings and Arrows” for his contribution. These works, along with arrangements by Dave Stamps and Owen, were to be premiered in a series of concerts throughout Central Florida in April 2007. Tragically, Brecker passed away from complications of leukemia in January of that year. 


 “Our elation and enthusiasm for the project quickly turned to mourning and a mood of somber reflection,” Owen said. “After awhile, however, it became clear that the project still served as a wonderful tribute and celebration of a great and beloved artist’s work. So in that spirit we moved forward with the premiers, several additional concerts - including the 2007 Clearwater Jazz Holiday before over 10,000 screaming fans - and, finally, the recording.”


The eight Brecker pieces selected for the album span approximately 25 years and are culled from seven different recordings, including two by Steps Ahead, the all-star group Brecker co-led with Mainieri in the 1980s. 


MAMA Records can be found on the world-wide web at www.mamajazz.org.  MAMA and Summit are distributed exclusively in the United States and Canada by the Allegro Media Group.


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 224 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.