Share This Page

Big band show leader ready to blow his horn

Stephen Hawk is not being easy on himself in the series of River City Brass Band concerts he is conducting.

Besides coping with the leadership role the job requires, he also is tackling works that highlight the music of high-note strongman Maynard Ferguson, Pittsburgh native Roy Eldrige and great swing trumpeters such as Harry James.

He will be leading the band in the annual jazz-big band concerts, titled this year "Close Enough for Jazz," which begin this evening.

"We're even having the euphonium section do 'Four Brothers'," he says with a laugh, talking about the Woody Herman Orchestra classic that was written for the saxophone section. "I'll try to figure out which one sounds like Stan Getz."

The big band show has traditionally been one of the band's season highlights and Hawk, director of jazz studies at Slippery Rock University, Butler County, is trying to make sure he does not disappoint anyone in this edition.

He says he is trying to make sure tunes represent all of the classic big band leaders: Count Basie, Duke Ellington, the swing leaders, Ferguson, and the like.

But he says an appropriate aspect of current big-band music also emerges: the work of Mike Tomaro, the director of jazz studies at Duquesne University who also is a talented and productive arranger.

Hawk keeps busy doing performance and teaching gigs all over the country where he frequently encounters many performers and leaders who are using Tomaro's arrangements.

"Everywhere I go, people always talk about how good the arrangements are," he says. "Not only to listen to, but to play as well. They are good for the performers and good for the music. We are very lucky to have him here."

He is quite familiar with Tomaro's work. They were the founders of the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra, an ensemble that preceded the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, in which they both perform. The two of them also frequently sit in with visiting ensembles such as the Smithsonian Institution Masterworks Jazz Orchestra, which was here in early March.

Hawk says Tomaro has put together a new version of the Ferguson tribute, adding "Give It One" and "Chameleon" to "Rocky," "MacArthur Park" and "Hey Jude." But he also adds he has done a Henry Mancini medley with "Moon River,' "Days of Wine and Roses," "Peter Gunn," "Baby Elephant Walk" and "Charade."

There even is more work for Hawk there.

"On 'Baby Elephant Walk,' I'll add a little piccolo trumpet," he says. "Should be fun."

That's easy for this trumpet strongman to say.

Additional Information:

Close Enough for Jazz

Presented by: River City Brass Band

When and where: 8 p.m. Thursday, Gateway High School, Monroeville; 8 p.m. Friday, Carson Middle School, McCandless; 8 p.m. Saturday, Palace Theatre, Greensburg; 3 p.m. Sunday, Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, Johnstown; 8 p.m. Tuesday, Upper St. Clair Theater; 8 p.m. April 15, Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland; 3 p.m. April 18, Baldwin High School.

Admission: Prices vary

Details: 412- 434-7222

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.