FIRST TIME! Middlebury and Amherst Jazz Groups Make Music Together

The Sound Investment Jazz Ensemble will present a joint concert with the Amherst College Jazz Ensemble on Monday, October 10, at 8 p.m. in the Mahaney Center for the Arts Concert Hall.

The evening will be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of an historic jazz event. On July 6, 1961, the Count Basie Orchestra and the Duke Ellington Orchestra met in a New York City recording studio and cut the album entitled “FIRST TIME! The Count Meets the Duke.” It remains one of the few collaborative band albums ever produced.

These two important figures in jazz had great respect for each other, but had not found a way to work together before. At Ellington’s invitation, Basie brought his band into Ellington’s home territory, and recorded on his label, Columbia. Basie remarked that Ellington had always been his idol. The feeling was apparently mutual: Ellington considered Basie “the essence of the essence of the swing.” In setting up the session, Ellington said, “I tried to establish a status of the hostness to the mostness.” In turn, Basie called it “the most wonderful date I ever worked on.”

Now, fifty years later, Middlebury’s Sound Investment Jazz Ensemble has invited the Amherst College Jazz Ensemble to come to town in that same spirit of making incredible, swinging music together.

Bruce Diehl, Jazz@Amherst’s director, and Dick Forman, leader of The Sound Investment, have long looked for ways to get Amherst and Middlebury jazz students together. Finally, with the generous support of the Amherst College Music Department, Diehl will bring the full band and other Amherst jazz students northward for a couple of days of making music together.

The concert will feature a varied program. In a nod to the historic Basie-Ellington album, selections from the Basie-Ellington FIRST TIME! album will be played by the Amherst and Middlebury bands simultaneously. Each ensemble will also perform a few of the numbers they are working on individually. Combos from each school will round out the program. The evening promises to be one of the highlights of Middlebury’s fall jazz programming.

Jazz has been part of the Middlebury experience since 1934, when a group of students formed a big band to play the music that’s been called America’s National Treasure. MIDDJazz, encompassing jazz performance, teaching, and lessons, reflects the continuation of that tradition. The College’s big band, The Sound Investment Jazz Ensemble (SIJE), plays the best of contemporary jazz arrangements in addition to celebrating the classic charts of the swing and jazz repertoires. The SIJE features many of the best jazz players on campus. Dick Forman, a mainstay of the Vermont jazz scene and Middlebury’s Director of Jazz Activities, leads the SIJE, as well as an active jazz workshop program which supports the development of smaller groups.

Bruce Diehl, the Director of Amherst’s Jazz Performance program, teaches and performs in a variety of settings. He has developed Jazz @ Amherst to make this music a vital part of the Amherst campus. It has become a strong musical presence in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. Like its Middlebury counterpart, the Amherst program has developed a vibrant big band, the Amherst College Jazz Ensemble, and a very active combo program. The performance program is complemented by courses in jazz history, improvisation and individual instruction.

The joint concert will take place on Monday, October 10, 2011 at 8:00 PM, in the Mahaney Center for the Arts Concert Hall at Middlebury College. The performance is free and open to the public. For more information, call 802.443.3168 or go to