Last Friday the first full-time doctoral student in the Eastman School of Music Jazz Department gave his first out of three mandatory degree recitals. The Eastman Jazz Department had been offering DMA degrees only since fall of 2002. Michael Stryker, a doctoral candidate, performed his own music in Kilbourn Hall.

A student of Tony Caramia for classical piano and of Harold Danko for jazz piano, Stryker performed his compositions together with Matt Pivec, doubling on alto saxophone and flute, tenor saxophonist Brian VanArsdale, bass clarinetist Bill Olson, trombonists Clarence Hines and Rodney Lancaster, trumpeter Brian Shaw, and Nate Heleine, soprano saxophonist.

Additionally, string bassist Dan Loomis and drummer Jared Schoenig played in all of the pieces and were specifically acknowledged by the composer in his program notes for their endurance and commitment to the concert.

The program featured seven pieces – “Struttin’,” “Or-Net-Ish,” “New Day,” “It’s a Matter of Timing,” “What’s Your Hurry,” “Ballad for Lisle,” “The Penitent” and “D. L. Ark.” Stryker spoke to the audience before every “tune,” as he called his works, keeping the atmosphere of the recital rather informal. He introduced his colleagues, dedicated all the music to his parents and invited everyone to The Old Toad after the recital.

Together, his pieces conveyed certain typical styles characteristic of both extended tonal language in a jazz idiom and inclinations towards structuring the works in arch and the rondo form.

Five of the pieces started with a lengthy piano solo introduction, which displayed not only Stryker’s compositional technique, but also his knowledge of both classical and jazz styles. The opening of “Or-Net-Ish,” which consisted of virtuosic f minor arpeggios, clearly had its roots in Chopin-esque-Romantic piano music, as did “It’s a Matter of Timing,” which was written for the Eastman Jazz performance workshop.

“The Penitent” had a similar soloistic opening, which reminded the audience of the impressionistic style.

It is worth noting that six out of the seven compositions featured the piano as the main instrument. The sole exception to this rule was “What’s your hurry?” This trio for piano, string bass and drums highlights all three parts in the traditional jazz fashion of having every performer take his or her turn to display his or her skills in a flashy solo.

Before performing his last piece, “D. L. Ark,” Stryker said that when he composed the tune, its harmonies reminded him of darkness and lightness. “However, since I thought it is too pretentious to call a piece ‘Darkness and Lightness,’ I decided to go for ‘D. L. Ark’ instead,” Stryker said.

This composition was Stryker’s strongest compositional presentation and placing it last on the program was, thus, a good forethought on the composer’s part.

Its ingenious opening, which featured solo piano, is constructed from an arpeggiated thirteenth chord. This chord is splitContinued from Page 13

between the two hands, so that each hand emphasizes a different triad. This leaves the listener with the distinct impression of bitonality – having two keys occurring at the same time. Later on in the piece, the 13th chord returns in the jazz idiom, this time as part of the basic harmony of the composition.

This was the only work in the entire recital that included a complete absence of the rhythm section as part of its structure. The sudden silence of the bass and the drums was able to grab the listeners’ attention much more effectively than even the loudest fortissimo possible would have been able to.

The canon, which emerged between the two saxophones and the trombone was masterfully veiled behind fairly improvisatory and seemingly improvisatory passages, which eventually lined up in the ending tutti.

“D. L. Ark” not only showed Stryker’s vast knowledge of harmonic and structural logic, but also revealed his ability to achieve compositional unity by using a wide variety of stylistic means.

The harmony in all of Stryker’s pieces deserves a special note for being successfully balanced. He never allowed his knowledge of complex chordal structures to take precedence over a simple expression and did not bore the audience with constant display of multifaceted sonorities.

A big part of the internal logic of Stryker’s music is that he spared the most intricate harmonizations and variations for the places where they were needed both structurally and dramatically.

Stryker’s doctoral recital in jazz piano and composition was a very successful musical event in many respects. The music was well written, rehearsed and performed. The concert was well publicized and many Eastman students attended.

Eastman is one of only six schools in the United States to offer a DMA in jazz, and the program already has three part-time and two full-time students, one of whom is Stryker.

“Over the last 10 years or so the number of people with masters of music degrees in Jazz Studies has increased dramatically,” Stryker said.

“As a consequence, the competition for tenured positions at universities has increased dramatically. That is one of the reasons I decided to pursue the DMA degree. The other was the strong desire for additional study and to get better as a pianist and improvisor, two separate but certainly related areas,” he added.

Eastman’s new DMA jazz program certainly has the potential of attracting many talented students like Stryker. The concert Friday night was a treat for all audience members, and an excellent preview of what both the Eastman and the greater Rochester community should be anticipating in the future -more and more serious jazz recitals in the near future.

Fol can be reached at afol@campustimes.org.



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