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by Steve Barta
First let me state that I love the flute. Whether it’s made of medal, clay, stone, plastic, bamboo, wood, or some material I’ve never heard of – I’m IN.
On my Another Life Brazil CD my guest was master flutist Hubert Laws. Featured on my Blue River CD was flute legend Herbie Mann. I have performed many concerts with the fiery Puerto Rican flutist, Dave Valentin, and watched as he played so hot, I thought his flute might melt! But I do not play flute. I play piano, and many of my compositions mix flute and piano together, creating that timbre I like so much.
THE ICONIC SUITE
I’m going to share with you some of the storyline behind my new arrangement for orchestra and the re-recording of Claude Bolling’s most famous Suite.
There are few pieces of music written that can lay claim to being part of two completely different genres of music. Such is the case with Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute & Jazz Piano. Since its release in 1975, this work has become a classic,and it took some time to earn that title – a classic.
When it was first released, people in the classical world stated in droves that Bolling’s Suite was not classical music, and people in the jazz world pounded on the Suite as not being jazz music. Yet with all the criticism from people, Bolling’s Suite enjoyed a ride on the Billboard charts for a record-breaking 530 weeks and literally helped coin the musical term, Crossover in the process.
Appealing to people the world over, flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, pianist Claude Bolling, bassist Max Hediguer and drummer Marcel Sabiani cut new ground with this fusion of classically influenced jazz music and jazz influenced classical music.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
For me, the reason the Suite now enjoys the title of being a well-loved classic, is simply because the writing was, and still is, first-rate.
I heard Bolling’s Suite when I was in college upon its first release. I wore the grooves on that record out after many spins. I knew right then that I would encounter the Suite at some point in a deeper way – having no idea what that would look like.
Jump ahead a mere 40 years, and I’m having dinner with pianist Jeff Biegel and the subject of Bolling’s Suite popped up in our conversation. I said to Jeff, “You know I’ve been thinking lately about re-releasing Bolling’s Suite for Flute & Jazz Piano with full orchestra.” Jeff said, “Funny you should mention that, because I’ve been thinking the same thing. How wonderful it would be to have an orchestral arrangement of this work.”
That conversation was now the catalyst to me to touch this work at a deeper level – fulfilling the feeling I had 40 years prior when I first heard it and felt it would cross my path again.
Jeff reached out to Claude’s manager, who connected me directly with Claude. So, the process began. Along with my executive producers John Street, Wayne Hines, and Kathy Hines, and of course with Mr. Bolling’s approval, we set out reintroduce this masterpiece to the world once again – but with a different approach – I would arrange the Suite for jazz quartet, string quartet and full orchestra, making the scores available for orchestras to now perform this work.
For me, the correct personnel to interpret the Suite was essential. Master flutist Hubert Laws was the only choice for me.
I had worked with Hubert on several projects previous, and he holds that unique ability to live in both worlds – classical and jazz. He was the guy!
Jeff Biegel was my only choice as the pianist. His ability to perform and interpret music is flawless.
Then came the time to make the choices for the rhythm section. Yet again, only one person came to mind for me – Brazilian drummer and percussionist Mike Shapiro. Mike’s knowledge of jazz and Brazilian music brought a most unique approach to this Suite – exactly what I was looking for.
When it came time to choose the ever-important bassist, Mike Valerio was my choice. Like Hubert Laws, Valerio lives in both the classical and jazz worlds. The perfect bassist to reinterpret Claude’s classic. Valerio served as co-principal bassist of the New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. He can be heard on hundreds of television and movie scores as a symphonic, jazz, and electric bassist. He has performed as a soloist with the New York Phil, the Chicago Symphony, and the Boston Pops.
So, the quartet was now complete: Hubert Laws (flt), Jeff Biegel (pno), Mike Shapiro (dms), Mike Valerio (bs). Perfect!
All players I selected for strings, woodwinds and brass were from the L.A. Phil. Talented players that can immediately read and interpret most any music style.
THE NEW CLASSIC COVER
The original cover to the Suite also became a classic along with the music, so I gave much consideration to the visual of how to present this new arrangement to the world. I reached out to the artist that designed and developed the original cover, Roger Huyssen. Perhaps you remember – the flute and piano together in the bedroom scene!
I convinced Roger to join the project, and he redesigned the cover, keeping that playful scene with the instruments which now include orchestral instruments – creating a fun, new classic recording cover.
SUCCESS OF THE SYMPHONIC ARRANGEMENT
The only request Claude had for me, was that I would not change the structure of the compositions – that I do not re-write the Suite in any way. I certainly honored that request, and the entire Suite has now been recorded and re-released under the title, Symphonic Arrangement: Suite for Flute & Jazz Piano.
I’ve had my arrangement performed with several symphony orchestras here in the states, as well as in Mexico and New Zealand.
The reviews have been fantastic for both live performances as well as the recording. The new version with orchestra is also available worldwide via download, CD & vinyl from Amazon and Apple Music.
Scores for this new orchestral version are available directly from me through my website.
You might ask yourself what Claude Bolling himself thought of the new arrangement with orchestra.
Upon hearing the recording, Claude stated,
“A true and modern arrangement. A thousand bravos!”
Thank you, Claude!
-Steve Barta, Grammy Nominee, pianist, composer
Grammy nominee Steve Barta is a composer, recording artist, producer, author (The Source – Hal Leonard Publishing). He has performed his original works as a solo artist, with jazz ensembles and symphony orchestras.
As a member of Herbie Mann and Jasil Brazz featuring Steve Barta, Steve recorded his widely acclaimed Blue River – a collection of Brazilian compositions by Steve, which started his long association with flutist Herbie Mann. His contribution to the world of music includes several recordings that reflect his many influences, particularly Brazilian, jazz, and classical.
Steve’s latest release is with master flutist Hubert Laws: https://stevebarta.bandcamp.com/track/ascended
Mr. Barta has released fifteen recordings to date. His collaborations include Al Jarreau, Hubert Laws, Herbie Mann, Dave Valentin, Ricardo Silveira, Dori Caymmi, B.B. King, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paulinho DaCosta, Ricardo Silveira and many more. He holds a coveted Grammy Award nomination for his Jumpin’ Jazz Kids – an original storyline and collection of jazz compositions written for jazz ensemble and orchestra.
Steve has written several works for symphony orchestra that have been performed worldwide.
Steve’s latest symphonic release is his arrangement of Claude Bolling’s classic, Suite for Flute & Jazz Piano. Now titled, Symphonic Arrangement: Suite for Flute & Jazz Piano, the new recording features pianist Jeff Biegel, along with renowned flutist Hubert Laws. Composer Claude Bolling himself, gave his personal approval to Steve’s new arrangement with, “A thousand bravos!”
He currently teaches jazz piano, composition and arranging at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO.
“Steve is a curious blend of Aaron Copland and Antonio Carlos Jobim”Herbie Mann