Thanks Technology, for Making The 14 Jazz Orchestra Possible
Running a big band has never been easy. But how do you manage it when all the members are busy with their own separate careers?
The 14 Jazz Orchestra, whose members have performed with some of the world’s biggest stars, will play together on Monday. The 13-piece ensemble appears at the Miami Jazz Coop’s weekly Rent Party in Coral Gables.
In the old days, explained Dan Bonsanti, The 14’s director, scores were written out, then taken to a copyist. The labor-intensive task of formatting the music to be played was costly. “Just to hear a chart would cost like $500,” he says. If changes were necessary, the price rose.
Now, though, the software Bonsanti uses to write his arrangements generates mp3 sound files. He shares these with the musicians, allowing them to learn their parts wherever they are, whenever they can. “If it wasn’t for the technology I just don’t know how we would do it,“ he says.
The group is a dream come true for its director.
“I was looking for a band of my own to write for,” says Bonsanti, whose career includes a stint as associate director of Jazz Studies at the University of Miami as well as time on the stand with Billy Eckstine, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, and others. He knew just where to search. “There were a lot of musicians in town who weren’t getting to play what they considered creative music.”
Not that they weren’t getting to play. These cats are all in demand, some of them working overseas during the season. That makes it hard for them to find time to practice together, let alone perform.
At first, they just played together because they could. Then they wanted to do it some more. One of the members said he thought he might be able to get The 14 a gig at Miami-Dade College, and their career as their own performing ensemble began.
Public performance is nothing new to The 14, whose members have played in the best known of the big bands: Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, the Dorsey Brothers, Glenn Miller. They’re also veterans of what Bonsanti calls “commercial music,” backing the likes of Barbra Streisand and Prince. Many are educators at local universities as well.
Now, The 14 is also a recording group. Their debut album, “Nothing Hard is Ever Easy,” is set for release in January, but Bonsanti hopes to have pre-release copies available at Monday’s show. In addition to guest appearances by the singer Wendy Pedersen and saxophonist Joe Donato, the performance will feature some tunes from the album. It offers many different styles of music, to which The 14 tries to take “sort of a fresh and modern approach,” Bonsanti says.
The 14 Jazz Orchestra performs 8:00 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 28, at the Open Stage Club, 2325 Galiano St., Coral Gables. Part of the Miami Jazz Coop’s Rent Party series, admission is $10. Info at http://www.miamijazz.org/Rent%20Party.htm.