Snarky Puppy: A Cocktail of Influences Wags the Dog

“We’ve never thought of ourselves as a fusion band, but I understand why people associate us with the genre. As time goes on, though, the sound of the group is moving toward something else. I’m not sure exactly what to call it, but I feel like we all know what it is.”

In other words, fans and curious onlookers alike are best off simply gauging the ever-evolving direction for themselves when Texas-born/New York–based Snarky Puppy makes its Ravinia debut on July 2. League promises a combination of selections from the troupe’s instrumental albums and assurance that they never repeat the same show twice, much of which will be determined upon “the atmosphere, the vibe, the sound, and everything else that is shaping the moment.” And even if it marks the first time the group, which features up to 25 members in regular rotation, has performed at America’s oldest outdoor music festival, longtime Snarky saxophonist Bob Reynolds came up through Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute jazz program during its first year (2000), plus Snarky Puppy is no stranger to Chicago audiences.

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Building Bridges: The iron is hot for fusing jazz and classical in RSMI's composition competition

It was in the spirit of the intense and aspirational goals of RSMI’s ambitious programs for jazz and classical musicians—as well as the bold musical vision of Leonard Bernstein, whom Ravinia has just gotten underway celebrating with an expansive multiyear tribute—that Bridges, an international jazz and classical fusion composition competition, was born. It offered an imaginative challenge for artists ages 17–30 (the same age range as the 60–70 performers invited to RSMI each year) to compose original works specifically for a string quartet and a jazz trio. “The Bridges competition was conceived to help give young professionals a place on the map—if not the world stage—which is precisely what RSMI has been granting singers and instrumentalists for the past three decades,” Kauffman said. The directors of the RSMI Program for Jazz had long dreamed of such a competition, having written many works combining jazz and classical music and players themselves.

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Ravinia's Steans Institute Remembers David Baker

All of us at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute are still in shock about the sudden death of David Baker last Saturday. David had led the RSMI Program for Jazz since its inception in 2000, so naturally he had developed a certain way he expected things to be done. When I became director of RSMI in 2010, I was in a constant whirlwind with all three of the programs, grasping for any bit of knowledge I could try to retain as I learned on the fly, so of course things didn’t run exactly as David was accustomed to, of course I dropped a few balls here and there. So when he showed up in my doorway

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Ramsey Lewis Joins A New "In" Crowd with His First Classical Concerto

The traditions of jazz and classical music have enjoyed parallel histories but relatively few intersections. Yet players from Benny Goodman to Wynton Marsalis have famously commuted between the two realms, and composers from George Gershwin to Duke Ellington to Leonard Bernstein have negotiated areas of artistic agreement that have linked certain of their traditions in often exciting ways, creating the bedrock of symphonic jazz.

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