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Butler Jazz Ensemble on Monument Circle, Apr. 8

Butler Jazz Ensemble

Matt Pivec and the Butler Jazz Ensemble prepares for the Apr. 8 show.
Photo provided by Butler University and used with written permission.

By Marc Allan
Butler University
http://www.butler.edu/

Butler University’s 17-piece Jazz Ensemble will regale the April 8 lunchtime crowd on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis with a performance called “The Music of Radiohead … and More” from noon to 1 p.m. on the south side of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. (Rain/inclement weather date April 10.)

The performance is free, and the public is encouraged to sit outside, eat, and enjoy the tunes.

The ensemble will perform Radiohead songs arranged specifically for a jazz band, including “Bodysnatchers,” “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box,” “Everything in Its Right Place,” and “Idioteque.”

In addition, the group will preview its April 20 concert at Butler ArtsFest with some Afro-Cuban music.

“I really enjoy playing in non-traditional venues,” said Matt Pivec, Butler’s director of jazz studies, who will lead the ensemble. “It makes students think about the concert experience a little differently. When you’re in a public space with a little bit of noise around you and other activity, you’re more inclined to just play and have fun playing and being a part of the environment as opposed to being the focal point of everybody’s attention.”

The idea of Radiohead music for jazz band came to Pivec’s attention a few years ago, when he heard about a high school near Fresno, Calif., commissioning a version of “Everything in Its Right Place.” Then Fred Sturm, director of jazz studies at Lawrence University, organized a project called The Radiohead Jazz Project, to which numerous arrangers contributed.

Pivec liked what he heard, so he spent some time deciding which songs would be suitable for the Butler Jazz Ensemble. He started with “Bodysnatchers,” a “rugged, intense and raw” piece that the group performed outdoors on campus.

When the ensemble performed that song, Pivec’s wife told him it sounded completely different from everything else they played—and not just because it was a Radiohead song.

“It’s because the influences of that particular piece are from music they grew up listening to,” Pivec said. “They didn’t necessarily grow up listening to standard big-band swing music. They come into that later in life. But through various places, they’ve been exposed to rock grooves. So when they get to play that style, they play with an intensity and really own that style.”

He looked into what other Radiohead songs the group could perform and picked several more.

“It was a great challenge for the band in many ways,” he said. “It forced us to do things we wouldn’t normally do, like play in different meters, play with different sounds. There are certain aspects of Radiohead’s music that lend themselves to large jazz ensembles. They absorb influences from all different styles. Each piece seems to have its own identity and distinct sound.  That lends itself to jazz, because jazz has always been a music that’s absorbed and made use of different genres. It’s really resonating with younger players.”

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