Collaborations with Symphony Orchestras
In 2002, Charged Particles embarked on a new adventure in their music-making: performances with symphony orchestras. There is, of course, a long history of the blending of jazz with classical music, including Stravinsky’s writing for jazz band and orchestra, Gershwin’s numerous jazz-tinged orchestral compositions, and recent cross-fertilizations by such renowned artists as Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea. Charged Particles has taken this melding a step further by commissioning original arrangements for jazz trio and orchestra in innovative styles to bring new levels of excitement to the concert hall.
The new Charged Particles arrangements fall into three categories. The first are arrangements of beloved classical pieces, including Peter and the Wolf, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, and Beethoven’s Minuet in G. Each of these arrangements began as electrifying translations of the original themes, harmonies, and compositional structures into jazz trio arrangements. As a next step, arranger Jerry DePuit (of the University of Michigan’s music school faculty) added orchestration to broaden each composition’s rendering with orchestral magic.
A second group are arrangements of well-known jazz standards, including "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face" (Loewe & Lerner), and "I’ve Got the World on a String" (Arlen & Koehler) and "I Will Wait for You" (LeGrand & Gimbel). Each of these arrangements brings smiles of recognition to audience members’ faces and bring a freshness of approach to familiar great works of the Broadway theater.
Finally, Charged Particles offers orchestrations of new compositions written by the group’s members and their contemporaries. For example, bassist Mike Rak’s "In Peace" is a tribute to a friend lost that brings swells of passion together with representations of bright and happy memories. And Vince Mendoza’s composition "Greenhouse" fuses Latin and funk rhythms with an angular orchestration approach that has gained him a reputation as a unique stylist.
Taken together, this set of works covers a wide range of styles and makes for an always-interesting and dynamic package that includes well-known works as well as new concepts. Audiences of all ages enjoy the full range of musical adventures that shows off both the technique of the orchestra and the musicianship of the members of Charged Particles.
In performance, the classical pieces can be introduced by short renderings of them in their original form to refresh audiences’ memories. Then, the translation of these pieces into the jazz idiom is all the more intriguing.
The bridging of the group’s jazz performances with the world of classical music is natural for group members, all of whom received extensive classical training as youngsters. In fact, Jon performed for over a decade with regional orchestras, won classical performance awards from the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan, and performed as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra, and the Bucks County Symphony.
The Charged Particles with Orchestra arrangements were premiered in performances with the Upper Arlington Community Orchestra and the Westerville Symphony Orchestra in 2002. The arrangements were also performed with the Bozeman (Montana) Symphony, the Clemson (South Carolina) University Symphony Orchestra, and the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra (Mount Pleasant, Iowa).