Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jazz at the Native American Music Awards? Join the discussion!

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

My friend Marc Bowlegs Anderson, a jazz guitarist of Oklahoma Seminole descent, has instigated a spirited discussion regarding the absence of separate categories for jazz and classical recordings at the Native American Music Awards, now in its 12th year.

The Nammys currently place all jazz and classical nominees in a catch-all category labeled “instrumental,” although there are probably as many jazz and classical recordings with vocals as there are without.

The Nammys require a minimum of six nominations in each of the 28 categories that they currently recognize. They haven’t received the minimum six, they say, six this year, six last year and six next year to create the category.

Marc wrote to the Nammys: “The NAMMYS should take a proactive approach…and foster participation in jazz and classical music by offering these awards without regard to the number of entries in any year. This can only enhance the diversity and visibility of the NAMMYS and will certainly serve Native Classical and Jazz musicians well, thereby benefiting the entire Native American music community.”

The Nammys replied to Marc: “In our earlier years, we actually had a combined jazz/blues category. Over time, the jazz recording submissions vanished and were non-existent and thus gave way to a complete Blues category, as evidenced today. We are still attempting to hold on to the classical field through our Instrumental category.

"However, we continue to honor jazz and classical musicians with special awards as we have in the past with artists as Frederick Whiteface with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Jim Pepper - Hall of Fame, etc. and allow all jazz and classical artists to submit their recordings in whatever category they feel they are qualified to enter.

"We did not ask the Grammys to "break their rules", when we submitted the Native American music category proposal and sought their approval. In fact, we had to prove a marketplace existed five years prior and five years ahead showing hundreds of recordings each year in both the traditional and contemporary fields just to create ONE category for our genre. The same obviously does not apply to suggesting new categories in the Nammys, but to maintain our credibility among the mainstream music industry and media and keep the fairness among all competing categories - we require a minimum number of entries of six recordings for that year and continuous years just like any other national music awards show."

It’s a complicated subject. I intend to return to it several times over the coming months, any number of times going forward.

The argument is only in part about which should come first, the chicken or the egg, six entries each year for the foreseeable future or the category.

Music is often not easy to categorize or label, and that fact points to a separate but related issue, the arbitrariness of the nomenclature itself.

Coming off the stage after his set at the Isle of Wight music festival, Miles Davis was asked the name of whatever it was that his band had just performed. Miles said, “Call it anything,” and that’s how its labeled on the album.

There’s art, and then there are labels and categories.

Then there is the much larger issue of how Native American music and musicians are perceived and categorized by the recording industry and recognized by the Grammys, its annual self-promotional showcase. The Grammys bestows awards, prestige and other support to artists in 109 categories.

In each of the past 12 years the Nammys have demonstrated the broad diversity of Native American music, while in an entirely separate process the Grammys distills all of Native American music down to one performer per year, regardless of genre.

This discussion reaches to how Native American music is categorized and marketed in record store bins, often clustered with “World Music”, irony noted….

The six-entry rule bars recognition of a lot of Indian talent. Robbie Robertson is an easy example. Among his accomplishments are movie scores for “The Departed” and “Gangs of New York”. The music itself was not “Native”, but regardless, the Nammys are not likely to get six Best Score or Best Song Soundtrack for Motion Picture or Television any time soon. The only option was to award Robbie a Lifetime Achievement Nammy, which he earned for his time with The Band and Bob Dylan alone.

There should be a way to recognize the accomplishment for the accomplishment.

It’s not like there isn’t any Native American jazz or classical music close at hand….

Gabriel Ayala, the Yaqui guitarist, won the 2010 Best World Music Nammy with a recording of Spanish classical guitar music. Most record stores consider World music to be synonymous with indigenous music, not the Spanish classical canon.

On awards night, Gabriel performed a medley of Concierto de Aranjuez (as popularized by Miles Davis) and Chick Corea’s Spain, and that was jazz played on a classical guitar. Gabriel Ayala plays classical and jazz guitar on the same instrument, in the same performance.

His Nammy performance included this duet with Skylar Wolf. Feel free to put a label on it, to place it in a single category. Is it Indian music? Sure, but then what…?

Here are some thoughts going forward:

Muskokee Creek poet and musician Joy Harjo, last year’s Female Artist of the Year at the Nammys, has a new multimedia show titled “We were there when jazz was invented,” featuring her band, three Oklahoma stomp dancers and video.

The Nammies could make a powerful statement about Native Americans in jazz by featuring Joy Harjo’s program at the 2011 Nammys, I’m just saying….

And while we’re at it, let’s nominate Choctaw brother the late Don Cherry for the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame, to join his soul mate Jim Pepper there….

And then there’s the late Don Pullen, whose “Sacred Common Ground” with the Chief Cliff Singers (Kootenai) is just as astonishing a concept today as it was when recorded shortly before his death….

I’m just saying….

Sunday, November 07, 2010

On election to the Oregon Native American Chamber Board

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—Members of the Oregon Native American Chamber recently elected me to its nine-member Board of Directors.

I am thrilled and honored to have this opportunity to make a contribution to ONAC’s mission and to the People the organization serves.

I am grateful for the friendship and support that ONAC members and friends of ONAC contributed to our work to establish the Jim Pepper Chair, the Jim Pepper Remembrance Scholarship Fund and the Jim Pepper Arts Festival at Portland State University. Their support was vital to our success.

I look forward to working alongside my fellow ONAC Board members on issues of significance to Native American populations statewide and throughout the NW region.

The Portland Metro Area is home to the ninth largest Native American population in the USA, with more than 380 tribes identified in the urban area alone.

ONAC’s mission is:

“We are dedicated to working with all members of the community to advance the educational and economic opportunities for Native Americans in Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

ONAC promotes and supports:

“The education, training and cultural understanding of Native Americans, ONAC members and ONAC partners through access to economic development programs, services and resources.

“The development, growth and advancement of Native American businesses, professionals and students in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

“Networking to increase business opportunities among Native American businesses, professionals, ONAC members and ONAC partners, thereby strengthening and growing economic opportunity for all communities in Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

I want to invite you to become a member of ONAC. You can thank me later. Find out more here:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cornel Pewewardy sang the invocation, a Kiowa psalm

Cornel Pewewardy (Comanche-Kiowa) sang the invocation, a Kiowa psalm, at the recent gathering of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, "Inspiring the Spirit", and he certainly did that!

Professor Cornal Pewewardy is the Director of Native American Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Portland State University, and is Co-Chair of the Jim Pepper Arts Festival Steering Committee.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Celilo Falls: Time to start the clock ticking, time to light the fire....

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

We live with the consequences of many disastrous public policy decisions, arguably none more plainly evident than the flooding of Celilo Falls, radioactive nuclear sites aside.

This US Army Corp of Engineers movie was shot in 1956, one year before a confluence of short-sighted idiots at the state, local and federal levels deliberately destroyed all that you see here:

The US Army film documents the fact that there was no shortage of information available to the decision-makers. They knew what they were about.

Another video, “See Through the Water”, tells the Celilo story in the words of the Celilo people themselves:

The rock structure of Celilo Falls lies intact below the surface of the pond that now covers this place.

Someday, a study will be taken, weighing the costs and benefits of reclaiming Celilo Falls and all that it stands for versus the costs and benefits of maintaining the dam at The Dalles, and a decision will be made in favor of Celilo Falls and the salmon.

It is only a matter of time until we get to that place, as these two videos make plain. There are costs and benefits either way. It’s time to do the math.

No reasonable person living today would consider building a dam to flood Celilo Falls.

Were it not for the terrible decisions of a previous generation, were Celilo Falls flowing today, it would be regarded as one of the world’s greatest heritage sites, and every effort would be made to preserve it and the cultures it sustained.

No reasonable person living today would consider building a dam to flood Celilo Falls. The notion, just like draining the Aral Sea, would be unthinkable….

There is a way to engineer getting the occasional barge up and down the river, and a way to generate power and a way to bring Celilo Falls back to life as surely as there is a way for a man to walk on the Moon….

Were it not for the terrible decisions of a previous generation, were Celilo Falls flowing today, this place would be regarded as one of the world’s greatest heritage sites, and every effort would be made to preserve the Falls and the cultures it sustained forever, to the last human breath, we would all stand together….

It is time to start the Celilo Falls clock ticking, time to do the math, time to stand vigil for the day that the waters roar and the earth shakes anew….

It is time to light the fire that will still be burning when Celilo Falls reappears, when the salmon leap and all the world celebrates, it is time to light the fire….

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A conversation with Winona LaDuke about Jim Pepper, pt 1

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon --

Winona LaDuke and I had an impromptu conversation at KBOO 90.7FM that was recorded by KBOO Engineer Liam Delta in May, 2010.

The subjects ranged from the new White Earth radio station that Winona is building (they are looking for engineering help right now--call them if you can help), to the Heavy Haul tar sands project she is opposing, to the great Native American musician Jim Pepper.

The entire conversation will be posted on YouTube in segments, and will be continued....

Here's part 1, about Jim Pepper and Witchi-Tai-To:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Jim Pepper, Gunther Schuller, Mr. D.C. and "Custer Gets It"

By Sean Cruz

Jim Pepper never wrote pop tunes, that’s probably the first thing you should know about Jim Pepper.

Jim’s music came from visions, from his family, from ancestral teachings, from his friends with whom he shared his life, from his heritage, from the People, from the Earth, from the Sky, from the Wind and from the Water; they were his sonic visions, and they were as ancient as Man, as eternal….

Sometimes he wrote his music down in the form of compositions, sometimes they were recorded, and sometimes, if you were truly fortunate, you were there when he performed them live.

It’s one thing to have a vision, quite another to have the gift of expressing it, and Jim Pepper was one of the very finest, most original virtuosos to ever breathe through a tenor saxophone in the history of the instrument, right up there with John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, and you can fill out the Top 5 of All Time list with any other two names that you like….

Jim Pepper’s saxophone bridged continents and cultures, broke through language barriers all over the planet, and still does….

His father Gilbert Pepper and his grandfather Ralph Pepper gave him his start on his first tenor saxophone, and that music, their music, came from the Great Mystery….

Jim Pepper would be the first to tell you that his music came from somewhere else, from someone else. He was just the musician, he would say, taking the visions and adding harmony, jazz chords, this or that, singing in that soulful voice as ancient as water, and then picking up that silver saxophone, and your life would change, if only just a little bit at a time….

Mr. D.C. was Jim’s composition dedicated to his musical and spiritual brother Don Cherry, the pocket-trumpet-playing improvisational avante garde hero, the two of them joined for eternity in this world and the next, both of them blowing free and beautiful at the very same time, up there now with Trane and Monk, Dizzy and Miles, Floyd Red Crow Westerman and Johnny Cash.

Here, Gunther Schuller’s arrangement takes you on a journey through time and space, you will wonder how you got there so effortlessly, back to the mid-19th century at a place called The Little Big Horn, and at the same time here you are in the heart of free jazz country, some of the most challenging music that the 20th century had to offer.

First the orchestra enters, signals something’s up, there is something coming your way, you just need to pay attention a little bit, and the Remembrance Band is in there too, very subtle, working it, then the tempo changes and we’re in a new place….

Jazz, orchestra, Indians, Gunther Schuller speaking in his Third Stream voice, full throated….

That’s not Jim on saxophone, but you know he would dig it, and is digging it right now, Jim and Don….

Then the segue into Jim’s “Custer Gets it”….

And his lyrics:

“Here come the Indians, comin’ real fast

“Comin’ down the pass, gonna kick you in the ass

“Here come the Indians, comin’ real fast

“Comin’ down the pass, gonna kick you in the ass

“Custer Gets It! Custer Gets It! Custer Gets It! Custer Gets it!” the singers shout!

And from there swirling into a free jazz moment, a world that Jim knew as surely as any other musician who walked the earth, sure-footed Jim, on the battlefield at the Little Big Horn…you get the point.

Silence…and then the orchestra restates, there’s a little bit of Africa in that theme, it’s World music, after all….

That last muted trumpet note fades…shades of Choctaw Don Cherry…this note’s for you, Don….

With your help, Gunther Schuller’s Witchi Tai To: The Music of Jim Pepper …is coming to Portland in 2011.

You can listen to Mr. D.C. on YouTube right here:

…and your life changes, a little bit at a time….

On Columbus Day, Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, and next steps

We had hoped to stage the American Premiere performance of

Gunther Schuller's Witchi-Tai-To: The music of Jim Pepper

at Trinity Cathedral on October 7, 8 and 9, but the stars did not line up for those dates.

We are doubly disappointed, as the Schuller concert series would have been followed on Sunday, October 10, Columbus Day, with a powwow organized around the Episcopal Church's Resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery!

"The Doctrine of Discovery is the dogma that Christian sovereigns and their representative explorers used to assert dominion and title over non-Christian lands with the full blessing and sanction of the Church. The Royal Charter, issued in 1496 to John Cabot and his sons by King Henry II, led to the colonizing dispossession of indigenous peoples from their lands in North America and to the dehumanization and subjugation of non-Christian peoples (which the monarchy termed “heathens” and “infidels”).

"The charter specifically authorized John Cabot and his sons 'to find, discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions or provinces of heathens and infidels, in whatsoever part of the world placed, which before this time were unknown to all Christians.' The Charter also reads in part, 'John and his sons or their heirs and deputies may conquer, occupy and possess whatsoever such towns, castles, cities and islands by them thus discovered that they may be able to conquer, occupy and possess, as our vassals and governors lieutenants and deputies therein, acquiring for us the dominion, title and jurisdiction of the same towns, castles, cities, islands and mainlands so discovered.'”

The Doctrine of Discovery was fundamentally the license with which Europeans granted themselves the right to steal, to kill, to rape and to enslave as they saw fit...and they always saw fit.

The Doctrine of Discovery led directly to the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny, and with it--here in Oregon--just over 150 years ago--to the forced relocation of Native people from sites they had occupied for thousands of years onto reservations, and to the Termination policies of the 20th Century.

The Resolution – "put forth by the 188th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine – would put the Episcopal Church on record condemning the Doctrine of Discovery and supporting indigenous peoples in their call for the repudiation of the 1496 Royal Charter issued to John Cabot and his sons and other similar Royal Charters which sanctioned European invasion of the western hemisphere. 

"The resolution also calls upon each diocese to reflect upon its relationship with the indigenous peoples within its area to understand the history of its relationship with them, to build a relationship with all such Peoples, and to support them in their political and legal struggles for their inherent sovereignty and fundamental human rights."

Here's a draft design of the poster that the Oregon Episcopal Diocese was preparing for the event:

We will call a Steering Committee meeting in the next couple of weeks to start working on 2011.

The Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery events are still taking place, at St. Andrews Episcopal Church on Sunday, October 10, from 3 pm to 6 pm.

Maybe I'll see you there.

Sean Cruz

Friday, August 13, 2010

The 2010 Jim Pepper Arts Festival at PSU is postponed to 2011

After long consultations with Portland State University officials over the past week, we have decided to postpone the 2010 Jim Pepper Arts Festival to the summer of 2011.

Several reasons enter into our decision:

Since the passing of Jim’s mother Floy Pepper in June, to be honest, our hearts haven’t been in it like before.

Our momentum and our love for Jim and his music were carrying us forward, but Floy was our Honorary Chair and we haven’t held a Steering Committee meeting since she passed.

We recognize that the Pepper family remains in mourning and we will honor them and this period of private time by scheduling the Jim Pepper Arts Festival for a later, more appropriate date.

The most important other consideration is the fact that the Native American Studies Department and the Music Departments are both moving into different buildings just before our planned Festival dates and will not have the personnel to accomplish that and then register students, start classes and provide logistical support to the Festival at the same time. All staff levels are very thin.

These factors are all telling us that we must be patient.

We are grateful to Portland State University for its support. We have many allies and champions there, including College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Marvin Kaiser and School of Fine and Performing Arts Dean Barbara Sestak, and Professor Cornel Pewewardy, Director of Native American Studies.

Our accomplishments for this season include:

Dean Sestak graciously offered five nights in Lincoln Hall to support the Jim Pepper Arts Festival, and we offer her our gratitude. This is the first stage of what will be a beautiful partnership as we move forward from here.

Dean Kaiser has taken the steps to create the Jim Pepper Remembrance Scholarship account and the Jim Pepper Arts Festival account, both to benefit the Native American Studies Department. The Jim Pepper Arts Festival account will support the endowment of the Jim Pepper Chair.

Contributions to either account can be made directly to the Development Office, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Portland State University, here:

Dean Kaiser has committed the University to stage the Jim Pepper Arts Festival at a more appropriate time. Planning for that event will begin in September. The Jim Pepper Arts Festival is postponed, not cancelled.

Perhaps most importantly, Dean Kaiser has made the commitment to create the Jim Pepper Hunga-Che-Ada Flying Eagle Chair, as called for in Senate Joint Resolution 31 (2005).

The Jim Pepper Chair will become one of the University’s major points of pride and sources of strength and inspiration, and a beacon for Native people everywhere.

Our work as a Steering Committee has brought these things to pass, and we have gained many friendships and formed many partnerships and alliances along the way.

This is the foundation upon which we will build, these are those with whom we will travel, this is the path we shall take.

I want to thank personally everyone who has granted me an audience and offered the gift of friendship. I am very grateful.

Hum-buck Shay,

Sean Cruz

Executive Director

1000 Nations

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Jim Pepper Hour of Power on KBOO 90.7FM

Portland, Oregon—Nick Gefroh will host the Jim Pepper Hour of Power from noon until 2:00 on Wednesday July 28.

Here’s the link for live streaming audio:

I will bring my collection of rare Jim Pepper recordings and Nick will bring his, and you’re right, the show IS two hours long! It won't seem long enough! You'll see....

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Jim Pepper Remembrance Scholarship Fund opens at PSU

Jim Pepper (1941-1992), a Native American virtuoso jazz musician of international significance, was born in Salem and died at home in Portland of lymphoma.

Of Creek and Kaw ancestry, Jim’s Indian name was Hunga-che-ada, the Flying Eagle.

In a career that bridged cultures and continents, Jim Pepper created a sound that was all his own, a synthesis of Native American songs and chants, jazz, and the rhythms of Africa, South America and the Caribbean.

A highly original singer, dancer, bandleader, composer, innovator and legendary saxophone player, Jim performed throughout the United States, Europe and Africa alongside the greatest players of the day.

Jim Pepper’s posthumous honorings include: Lifetime Musical Achievement Award by the First Americans in the Arts (1999); Indian Hall of Fame(1998); Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame (2000).

Floy Pepper spoke during her acceptance of her son's First Americans in the Arts award in 1999: “Jim Pepper was a member of the Kaw Indian Nation known as 'The Wind People' from his father. From me, his mother, he was a member of the Creek Indian Nation known as 'The People of the Waters.' It's no wonder his music was so strong and powerful--with the wind to carry his music to the four directions of the Earth. And as long as the grass shall grow and the waters flow--which is forever--may his spirit remain alive for time immemorial”

In 2005, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 31, honoring the life and achievements of Jim Pepper. SJR 31 encouraged the creation and endowment of the Jim Pepper Hunga-che-ada Flying Eagle Chair at Portland State University “to further the study of Native American music and its relationship to jazz.”

Now, in 2010, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Native American Studies Department, Portland State University, has committed its support to the Jim Pepper Arts Festival and created the Jim Pepper Remembrance Scholarship Fund.

The 2010 Founding Occupant of the Jim Pepper Hunga-che-ada Flying Eagle Chair will be Gunther Schuller, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music.

The Jim Pepper Remembrance Scholarship Fund will provide financial assistance to students enrolling in the Native American Studies Department at Portland State University.

Contributions should be sent to:

Jim Pepper Remembrance Scholarship Fund

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Native American Studies

Portland State University

Post Office Box 751 503-725-3081 tel

Portland, Oregon 97207-0751 503-725-3905 fax

Thursday, July 01, 2010

2010 Jim Pepper Arts Festival announcements coming soon!

By Sean Cruz

(Portland, Oregon) We’ll be going live midsummer! Meanwhile, see the following brief (!) Gunther Schuller bio. The complete one will run a couple of volumes! Please note the last paragraph, referencing Gunther's 85th birthday this year, being celebrated at more than a dozen tribute concerts around the world.

Gunther's leaving us after the conclusion of the Jim Pepper Arts Festival to fly directly to Greece, to one of those tribute concerts, where he'll receive another honorary doctorate to add to the dozen or so others….

On September 28 at Portland State University, he will be honored as the Founding Occupant of the Jim Pepper Hunga-Che-Ada Flying Eagle Chair in the Department of Native American Studies, fulfilling Oregon Senate Joint Resolution 31 (2005), “to further the study of Native American music and its relationship to jazz.”

As the Jim Pepper Chair, Gunther will be with us for two weeks as an artist-in-residence, working with the University, students and faculty, and with the Portland community, to leverage the genius of Jim Pepper, the brilliant Native American saxophonist, singer, dancer, bandleader, innovator and composer, into an instrument that makes real differences in real lives, building a path to higher education for Native American students, financed with Jim Pepper Remembrance Scholarships.

The 2010 Jim Pepper Arts Festival will culminate at Trinity Cathedral on Oct 7, 8 and 9 with the American premiere performance of “Gunther Schuller’s Witchi-Tai-To: The Music of Jim Pepper”.

This series will feature the Portland Chamber Orchestra, Gunther Schuller conducting, with the Jim Pepper Remembrance Band and the Intertribal Veterans Powwow Drum from Ft. Defiance, Arizona. Native American poet and storyteller Ed Edmo will also be on the bill.

All Jim Pepper events are benefits for the Native American Studies Department, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, at Portland State University.

Let's not forget to wish Gunther a happy birthday while he's in town.


Gunther Schuller (b. 1925, Jackson Heights, NY)

Gunther Schuller has earned prominence as a composer, conductor, jazz and classical performer, author, educator, administrator, music publisher, record producer, and all-around advocate of other innovative musicians. He is the winner of several major honors including the Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur Genius Award, DownBeat Lifetime Achievement Award and inaugural membership in the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.

Born to an artist mother and a New York Philharmonic violinist father on St. Cecilia’s Day, which celebrates the Patron Saint of Music, Schuller’s destiny was clear early on. Within his first 15 years, he would discover talent for both art and music. That combination would lead to some of his most exciting compositions, including his well known Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (1959). Another famous combination of interests, classical music and jazz, would go on to define his career and secure his place in the musical history of the 20th century as a leader in the “Third Stream” movement.

He began as a composer, studied flute, and then switched to French horn. Schuller had already performed professionally under the baton of Arturo Toscanini and Antal Dorati before becoming the principal horn of the Cincinnati Symphony at age 17 in 1943. In his two important years in Cincinnati, Schuller first met Duke Ellington and developed an insatiable appetite for live jazz. By the time he joined the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 1945, Schuller was spending much of his time at the dozen or so clubs on Broadway and New York’s legendary 52nd Street with his wife, Marjorie Black Schuller (1925-92).

His early involvement with the New York jazz scene eventually led to a life-long relationship with the Modern Jazz Quartet’s John Lewis, then a young bebop pianist with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. In 1950, Lewis suggested Schuller replace an absent French horn player on the third and final Birth of the Cool session led by Miles Davis. Schuller would go on to record two more albums with Davis, including 1958’s Porgy and Bess with Gil Evans, and several more with Lewis as a major collaborator. Together they created the Jazz and Classical Music Society in 1955, founded the Lenox School of Jazz in 1957, performed on each other’s recordings (1955-65), and co-led the Third Stream ensemble Orchestra USA from 1962-65.

Despite collaborations with musical titans like Milton Babbitt, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and Dimitri Mitropolous on the classical side and Charles Mingus, J.J. Johnson, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Scott LaFaro, and the Modern Jazz Quartet on the jazz side, Third Stream music was mostly maligned by critics and poorly supported by the public. But Schuller, who had gained classical recognition for his composing of works like Symphony for Brass and Percussion (1950) and his first book, Horn Technique (1962), never missed a beat. With references like Leonard Bernstein, conductor of Schuller’s Triplum (1967) with the New York Philharmonic and a close friend, Schuller’s star was on the rise in the classical world.

He left the Met in 1959, and continued to freelance on French horn with artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Johnny Mathis, and Frank Sinatra until retiring to focus on composing in 1963. That year also began his twenty-two year association with the Berkshire Music Center where he presented Tanglewood’s first-ever jazz concert (1963), and served as Head of Contemporary Music Activities (1963-84) and Artistic Director (1969-1984).

In 1967, Schuller left his position as Associate Professor of Composition at Yale University to become the President of the New England Conservatory in Boston. At the helm of the NEC, he created the first conservatory-level degree program in jazz, founded three important jazz repertory orchestras including the Grammy-winning NEC Ragtime Ensemble, formed the Third Stream Department, and assembled an amazing array of talented faculty including George Russell, Joe Maneri, Ran Blake, Russell Sherman, Jaki Byard, Victor Rosenbaum, John Heiss and Benjamin Zander.

Before Schuller’s performances with the NEC’s Ragtime Ensemble helped spur the worldwide revival of interest in Scott Joplin in 1972-73, he would write the first of his seminal jazz books (Early Jazz: It’s Roots and Musical Development, 1968), tour Eastern Europe extensively for the U.S. State Department (1963-78), receive the first three of his eleven honorary doctorates in music, and premiere two of his operas (1966’s The Visitation and 1970’s The Fisherman and his Wife). In 1975, Schuller orchestrated Joplin’s opera Treemonisha and premiered and recorded it with the Houston Opera, also performing it on Broadway.

Also in 1975, Schuller founded the first of his three companies, Margun Music, to publish the works of composers like Alec Wilder and many younger, less-known composers who deserved public recognition. Before being sold in 1999, Margun, and its sister company GunMar, published over 1000 works. GM Recordings, Schuller’s independent record label, released its first recording in 1981—the piano music of twelve-tone composer Robert DiDomenica—and celebrates its 20th anniversary and the issuance of over 115 jazz and classical recordings in 2001. Schuller has received the Alice M. Ditson Award (1970) and many other honors for his selfless championing of other musicians.

After retiring from the presidency of NEC and his directorial position at Tanglewood, Schuller spent most of the 1980’s as one of the primary on-call composers for orchestras performing contemporary classical works. He also premiered his jazz ballet, The Great Gatsby (1987), in Pittsburgh, wrote his second award-winning jazz book, The Swing Era (1989), and edited Charles Mingus’ Epitaph for its posthumous premiere at Lincoln Center in New York (1989).

The 1990’s were arguably Schuller’s most productive decade. He collected a throng of awards including the MacArthur Genius Award (1991), the DownBeat Lifetime Achievement Award (1993), the Pulitzer Prize for Composition (1994), the BMI Lifetime Achievement Award (1994), Musical America’s Composer of the Year (1995), the DownBeat Critics Poll Jazz Album of the Year with Joe Lovano (1995), and Columbia University’s William Schumann Award for lifetime achievement (1989).

He co-directed and transcribed early jazz music for the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (1991-97) and in 1997 released his controversial treatise on conducting, The Compleat Conductor (Oxford University Press). He also won the Gold Medal in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1997), and was commissioned to compose a piece for the 30th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, The Black Warrior, which premiered in Birmingham, Alabama (1998).

In 2000, he arranged several of Native American saxophonist Jim Pepper’s compositions for orchestra, jazz band, powwow drum and singers.

“Gunther Schuller’s Witchi-Tai-To: The Music of Jim Pepper,” was recorded in Cologne, Germany on Tutu Records, Gunther Schuller conducting the WDR Radio Orchestra, members of the Jim Pepper Remembrance Band, and Yellowhammer, a Ponca Southern-style powwow drum and singers from Oklahoma.

Approaching his sixtieth year in professional music in 2002, Gunther Schuller has composed nearly 180 works and is still active as a world-traveling conductor, public speaker, and label president/producer with GM Recordings. He is currently documenting his unique life experiences in a long-awaited autobiography and celebrating his 85th birthday at more than a dozen tribute concerts around the world.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

1st Annual Jim Pepper Arts Festival: Mark your calendars!

 1000Nations presents:                                                                                                                

The 1st Annual Jim Pepper Arts Festival

Benefiting Portland State University

Department of Native American Studies

September 28 – October 11, 2010

Portland, Oregon

Music Dance Theater Film Video Comedy Spoken Word Art Literature

Featuring Gunther Schuller
winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music

In The American Premiere Performance of

Gunther Schuller’s Witchi Tai To:
The Music of Jim Pepper

The Jim Pepper Remembrance Band

Portland Chamber Orchestra

The Intertribal Veterans Powwow Drum from Ft. Defiance, AZ

Ed Edmo

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

October 7, 8, 9 2010

Other performers and events TBA

Tickets to go on sale mid-summer

Essential Jim Pepper on YouTube

Jim Pepper in performance

[] “Witchi Tai To”, from Pepper’s Powwow

[] “Water”, from Pepper’s Powwow, performed live at Oregon Zoo

[] Jim Pepper Story, Pt 1, Oregon ArtBeat, Oregon Public Broadcasting

[] Jim Pepper Story, Pt 2, Oregon ArtBeat, Oregon Public Broadcasting

[] Native Nations, hosted by David Liberty, May 20, 2010

[] “Legacy of the Flying Eagle”, performed live at Raab, 1991

[] “Ya No Ho”, from Comin’ and Goin’

[] “Ruby My Dear”, duet with Mal Waldron

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Native Nations interview on Jim Pepper

Here's the link to the Native Nations interview, May 20, 2010 on YouTube:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jim Pepper Lives!...Let's celebrate!

You are going to want to be in Portland in early October 2010. Jim Pepper Arts Festival announcements coming soon!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rare Jim Pepper audio posted by Ted Trimble

Bassist and longtime Pepper collaborator Ted Trimble has posted six rare audio files of Jim Pepper performing:

Basie Blues
Mr. D.C. (Don Cherry)
Round Trip
Solo Jim Pepper
3/4 Gemini
You don't know what love is

Jim Pepper: saxophones
Ted Trimble: bass
John "JB" Butler: guitar
Jimmy Peluso: drums

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jim Pepper Live at Raab on cd

PAO Records has issued this live performance of Jim Pepper with the Amina Claudine Myers Trio on cd, titled "Afro Indian Blues"

Recorded May 19, 1991
International Jazz Festival
Raab, Austria

My copy just arrived in the mail.